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ISSUE 52 page 8

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Sites of Interest
Latest EU web commerce sweeps reveal electronic goods improvement with ticket sites next in line
 FOLLOWING ITS DRIVE TO IMPROVE AIRLINE INTERNET SITES (see issue 45) the EU Consumer Affairs directorate has conducted ‘sweeps’ of web sites selling mobile phones, electronic goods and event tickets. A sweep is a targeted and co-ordinated check on a particular sector in order to see where consumer rights are being compromised or denied. National enforcement authorities then follow up on these findings, contacting the non-compliant companies and demanding that they come into line with the relevant requirements. Legal action can be taken against operators who violate EU consumer law. After a sweep last year of sites vending items such as digital cameras and personal music players, only 44% of those surveyed complied but when the results of the second phase, after enforcement, were announced in September this

figure had increased to 84%. The main infringements were lack of information displayed about consumer rights, failure to give a clear and accurate figure for the total price and failure to provide contact details for the trading company.  59 sites remained outside the law and national authorities will follow these up with the power to impose fines or even take their web pages down if necessary.
The next sector chosen for a sweep, following complaints to European Consumer Centres, is event ticket sales. 35% of EU citizens making a purchase online buy tickets for cultural and sporting occasions and 60% of ticketing sites were found to need further investigation after the first phase.  Problems included hidden taxes and handling charges, lack of a guaranteed refund if the event was cancelled and false claims of authorisation from the event organiser.

Bad and good examples of ticket web sites from EU Consumer Affairs



 Web sites and reports mentioned in this section are available at:
 EU Consumer Affairs Sweeps

Digital Agenda: Commission outlines measures to deliver fast and ultra-fast broadband in Europe

EU broadband plan doesn’t please everyone

IN ORDER TO MAKE CONCRETE PROGRESS ON ITS ‘DIGITAL AGENDA FOR EUROPE’, designed to encourage the roll-out of fast and super-fast internet broadband access (see our last issue), the European Commission has put forward proposals on access to the new fibre optic cables and redundant radio frequencies. The recommendation on cables aims to regulate the prices at which existing telecommunication companies, who have invested in the new generation, must allow new internet providers to access the fibre network. This is sometimes known as ‘unbundling the loop’. However the actual price in each Member State will be still be set by national governments.  On frequencies the Commission envisages those used by broadcasters for analogue television channels becoming available as they are switched off. This is possible because digital television signals require less bandwidth than the old-fashioned ones. It hopes that mobile ‘phone companies will use the freed frequencies to provide high-speed internet services, particularly for rural areas where it is expensive to lay the new cables.
Reaction to the proposals was divided. Companies aspiring to enter the telecomm market were pleased as were mobile ‘phone firms but current fibre network owners feared that their investment would not be recouped and existing national broadcasters are not so keen to give up their cherished wavelengths. Only Germany has actually auctioned them off (to Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone) while in Italy all the bidders are broadcasters rather than Internet Service Providers. However EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes insisted ‘I cannot sit by and allow our businesses to continue to compete against Asian businesses with Internet 100 times faster than our own’.

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