Recently approved in Italy, the Omnibus Directive aims to adapt the European regulatory framework to the digital evolution of online markets, thus ensuring greater transparency and consumer protection. Regarding this adaptation, it is important to clarify that our Consumer Code already provided rules on unfair (misleading or aggressive) commercial practices, and the norms governing such commercial practices remain valid; they simply integrate the innovations foreseen by the directive's implementation.
Indeed, the objective has always been to protect the consumer, who is the central subject in our legal system. From this perspective, the Omnibus Directive aims to introduce more precise references and regulate aspects that were previously uncovered for greater consumer protection.
What are the innovations it introduces?
The innovations introduced by the Omnibus Directive highlighted during the webinar include, in particular:
- Price reduction advertisements;
- New cases of deceptive practices and omissions;
- Regulation of reviews and their proper use for promotional purposes;
- Innovations regarding distance contracts;
- New sanctioning regime.
Starting with the first point, the new directive requires that new advertisements display the previous price applied by the professional for a certain period of time before the application of such reduction. It should be noted that the term "previous price" refers to the lowest price applied by the same professional in the previous 30 days. This directive applies in a B2C perspective and has been in effect since July 1st.
Furthermore, the directive encompasses all price reduction advertisements that could lead consumers to believe that the price of a particular product has decreased compared to the previously applied price. This specification applies only to goods and not services, extraordinary sales, or below-cost sales.
In addition to this, deceptive commercial practices are addressed, with particular reference to online searches, for example, providing search results to consumers without indicating that they are paid advertisements. Symbolic in this regard is the case of reviews and the possible deceptive use by professionals of fake reviews or appraisals, as well as the use of false information about such products for promotional purposes. According to the directive, published reviews must come from consumers who have actually purchased and used the product.
Finally, regarding distance contracts and off-premises negotiations, the consumer must have a clear understanding of the conditions of the contract they are about to enter into in e-commerce, from withdrawal to returns, to shipping costs. The professional must provide, in addition to what is already required, the geographical address where they are established, the phone number, email address, and the address and identity of third parties if the professional acts on behalf of others.
Objective: A better relationship with the consumer
In summary, the Omnibus directive has a significant impact on advertising, eCommerce, and consumer relationships. By regulating price reduction advertisements and consumer reviews, this directive aims to ensure greater transparency and protect consumers from deceptive commercial practices. However, the benefit is not exclusive to the customer: focusing on the authenticity of reviews, the accuracy of price information, and the creation of transparent informative content can help distinguish one's business and contribute to improving the consumer experience, thus promoting one's reputation and enhancing positioning in a highly competitive online market.
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