EU App Opens For Less Prescriptive Consumer Rights Obligations

August 20, 2012

Mobile is a game changer for everyone. eBay Inc.’s suite of mobile applications puts our business partners storefront in the pockets of millions of consumers around the world allowing them to compare prices also across local stores, pay for an item, reserve it for in-store pickup or order delivery.

The smart phone has become the digital nexus in the life of consumers. At the same time, the screen size, hardware and mobile internet impose limitations when designing for mobile that “force you to make simpler products. It forces you to leave things out” – the topic of a recent article in Financial Times.

These limitations need to be taken into account also by policymakers.  For example, the proposed Common European Sales Law requires multiple communications (such as notices and confirmations) between the trader and the consumer that would make it difficult to create user-friendly mobile experiences.

One way forward is to let the trader freely decide how and where information be made available to the consumer. This could be combined with reduced information and communication obligations for the trader. With the Consumer Rights Directive, basic information requirements will be harmonized across the EU. An idea would be to provide such information to consumers in a central user-friendly format, a blueprint being the European Commission’s recently launched smartphone appYour Passenger Rights At Hand, Everywhere’. The app allows air and train passengers to check, on the spot, their legal rights in case of cancellations, lost luggage, etc. and helps them exercise those rights.

If everything is to fit into the pockets of consumers, legislators and traders might need to find ways of dividing tasks and apps, such as the Your Passenger Rights app, could be part of the solution.