May 1 begins a new consumer purchasing law to apply, which with its special digital focus should bring about big changes for you who read this. Already in the autumn we could report that a new version of the law, partly based on an EU directive, was underway. And now all of a sudden there are only days left until it takes effect.
But what is really new? A lot of course, but we thought we would take the opportunity to look specifically at the digital sphere, which on May 1 will be much more noticeable in the legal text.
Longer burden of proof benefits consumers
Did you get a Monday copy, or has the product started to fail over time? It is a common point of contention in complaint cases and something that is regulated by the so-called burden of proof, among other things.
After six months, the burden of proof has historically shifted from the trader to the consumer. With the new Consumer Purchase Act, the trader’s burden of proof regarding original defects is extended to a full two years. If you buy a smartphone that stops working after one year and two months, it is still up to the trader to prove that the error is not original.
– It is definitely a success. From the EU point of view, the new minimum level was one year, but we managed to double it, says Maria Wiezell. She works as an expert in consumer law and consumer law at Swedish Consumers and has been involved in the investigation into the new Consumer Purchase Act.
Especially when it comes to gadgets, the change in the law can prove particularly useful, she says.
– The burden of proof has often put the consumer at a disadvantage, and not least buyers of technically advanced gadgets. These can be much more difficult to detect original defects in because it may require special skills, opening the product and so on. Very few can point to why a computer or tablet broke down.
Maria Wiezell also believes that the new burden of proof rule can benefit the environment in the long run, and hopes that companies will prioritize repairability already when the product in question is manufactured.
– We want the stuff to live as long as possible. With tougher evidentiary requirements on companies, I believe that the tendency to sell repairable gadgets is increasing because in many cases it should be financially favorable for them.
The right to repair – the struggle for the life of our stuff
The Swedish Consumer Agency is also positive about the changed burden of proof.
– I think this change will mean a lot to many consumers. After the first six months, it has been difficult for those who bought something to be able to prove that the fault was there from the beginning, says Magnus Karpe, a lawyer at the Swedish Consumer Agency, in a comment.
Digital services are covered
In future, software will also be covered by the new Consumer Purchase Act, among other things to counteract the planned aging of products and to persuade manufacturers to provide gadgets with important updates for a longer period of time. It can also be computer programs or subscriptions to digital streaming services. Here, on the other hand, requirements are placed on the consumer to ensure that units meet specific system requirements and to cooperate with traders by, for example, submitting their gadgets.
Maria Wiezell is also positive about this change in the law, but also points out that digital services are undeveloped land in terms of consumer law and that certain problems may arise in the application.
In general, Maria Wiezell believes that the user agreements may be messy for some time to come, but also points out that work is being done at EU level to produce standard templates for how these agreements should look to the consumer. All so that we avoid misunderstanding or being led astray.
From the new Consumer Purchase Act:
In the case of continuous provision of digital content or a digital service for a period, the obligation applies for three years after the product with digital parts was delivered or the longer period of the agreement.
Anyone who buys a product with digital parts, which is dependent on updates for it to work as intended, should be able to look forward to three years of such. And then from the time the product was sold, regardless of whether it has already been on the market for a couple of years. Exceptions can be made with clear information from the trader, so you should also in the future find out when your “new” smartphone was actually released on the market.
– When handing over a smartphone, for example, the trader will be obliged to inform you that your phone is so and so old and that you can therefore not count on three years of updates. Then it is up to you as a consumer to accept this or look around for a new product. But the trader must be able to prove that you as a customer have been properly informed and approved of this, says Maria Wiezell.
Another interesting news is that you who, for example, download a program to the computer and “pay” with personal data instead of money should be able to enjoy the same strengthened digital consumer protection. Data is undeniably hard currency in our digital reality. The exception is personal data that the trader needs to be able to deliver a product or service at all.