Policy issues

Consumer Protection in the European Union

The European Union of 27 countries has almost half a billion potential consumers. The Member States have developed measures at national level aimed at safeguarding interests of these consumers. At the same time, as of the 1970s, the EU is progressively harmonising the national measures in order to guarantee EU citizens the same high level of protection throughout the European market.

Direct Selling Europe (DSE) member companies strongly support and fully comply with national and EU legislation on consumer rights. A high level of consumer protection is indeed the best guarantee of a sustainable and ethical direct selling industry.

The European consumer policy is very comprehensive and complex. Below you will find the main policy issues relevant for the direct selling sector as regards consumer protection.

The Directive was published on the 18th of December 2019 and amends four EU consumer directives: the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, the Consumer Rights Directive, the Unfair Contract Terms Directive and the Price Indication Directive. 

The Directive allows Member States to extend the withdrawal period of 14 days up to 30 days for contracts concluded during unsolicited visits in a consumer's home or during sales excursions.

The Directive aims at achieving a real consumer internal market, striking the right balance between a high level of consumer protection and the competitiveness of enterprises. The Directive applies to contracts concluded after 13 June 2014.

The Directive establishes that the trader will bear the risk for any damage to goods in transport until the consumer takes possession of the goods. Furthermore, the Directive extends the withdrawal period for consumers to 14 calendar days. After the withdrawal the consumer has the right to be reimbursed without undue delay and within 14 days.

The Directive will ensure that consumers can turn to quality alternative dispute resolution entities for all kinds of contractual disputes that they have with traders. ADR entities need to be operational in all EU Member States.

The Directive provides strict rules at EU level applying to misleading and aggressive practices. Furthermore, it introduces safeguards for vulnerable consumers as well as a black list of unfair practices which are banned in all circumstances. More concretely, the Directive forbids pyramid schemes, which are understood as pyramid promotional schemes where compensation is derived primarily from the introduction of other consumers into the scheme rather than from the sale or consumption of products (Please refer to Annex I point 14 of the Directive for exact reference).

Other relevant pieces of legislation:

EU relevant portals:

Other relevant links:

Self-employment and Direct Sellers

The majority of direct sellers work under the self-employed regime. Most of the legislation regulating the self-employed status is made at national level. Further to national legislation, there are also concrete rules at EU level regulating self-employed direct sellers in the EU.

‘Commercial agents’ are self-employed intermediaries authorised on a permanent basis to negotiate the sale or purchase of goods for and on behalf of another person. The Directive provides commercial agents with common rights and obligations throughout the EU, in particular with regard to contracts and commissions.

Article 12 (2) of Regulation 2004/883/EC mentions a special rule for self-employed persons working temporarily in another Member State: “A person who normally pursues an activity as a self-employed person in a Member State who goes to pursue a similar activity in another Member State shall continue to be subject to the legislation of the first member State, provided that the anticipated duration of such activity does not exceed twenty-four months”.

Decision No A2 of 12/06/2009 provides an interpretation of the posting arrangements and procedures concerning the self-employed person posted in another Member State.

Please find more information on the Practical Guide concerning self-employed persons temporarily posted to another Member State.

EU relevant portals:

Representing a national direct selling association in Europe or a direct selling company that is active in Europe?