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Archivio Emma Bonino commissario UE
Financial Times - 31 marzo 1995
EU DRAFTS RULES FOR "DISTANCE SELLING"

Financial Times, 31.3.95 - BY Emma Tucker in Brussels

Measures to protect European Union consumers who buy goods and services from catalogues, over the telephone or from television displays, were adopted yesterday by consumer affairs ministers. They agreed on draft "distance selling" legislation that will give people the right to full information on products before they buy them, plus a seven-day cooling-off period during which they can pull out of the sale.

The directive, which has to be scrutinised by the European parliament, is expected to boost distance selling across Europe by providing minimum uniform protection for consumers who order goods by fax, mail or telephone from another member state.

The already rapidly expanding sector is expected to grow even faster when digital technology ushers is an explosion of screen-based shopping from home.

"We hope that this directive will constitute a first step towards the proper protection of consumers in the information society", said Ms Emma Bonino, consumer affairs commissioner.

The directive excludes financial services, mainly because ministers were worried that new initiatives could clash with existing legislation guarding against unscrupulous sales of financial products.

Member states will have three years to introduce the distance selling rules, once the directive has completed its progress through the partiament and council of ministers.

Yesterday's meeting also agreed to update rules on food labelling, making it obligatory for certain food products to list not just ingredients but also the quantities of them.

"It is important that consumers know how much meat is in a meat product, or how much natural juice is in a fruit juice", said an EU official.

To the disappointment of the Germans in particular, the law will not apply to alcohol as ministers for years have been unable to agree on how beer, wine and spirits should be labelled. Germany prides itself on the procution of exceptionally pure beer.

A decision on adopting a European standard for the marking of precious metals was postponed after it became clear that ministers were sharply divided. Britain, the Netherlands, Ireland and Portugal believe juwellery and other precious objects should be subject to verification by a third party. Other states such as Germany, which allow manufacturers to certify their products, consider a third party system too bureaucratic.

Ministers believe the lack of common standards is preventing the free-flow of precious metalsacross the single parket. But with such a clear division of opinion, the matter has been referred back to the member states' permanent representatives in Brussels who will attempt to forge a middle way.

 
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