MEPs in quarrel over dual quality products negligence
Lawmakers from CEECs are asking for prohibition of this unfair practiceMaria Koleva , Brussels
The new legislation that was expected to reinforce consumer rights for the internet age created new East-West division during the last for this Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg. Its weak point was the issue of dual quality products. In fact, the EP didn't succeed to push for more robust measures against this repulsive trade practice.
It happened just two weeks after the adoption at first reading of the so-called Mobility Package I, a set of three controversial directives that put at stake the existence of hundreds of thousands of international haulage companies in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEEC).
Lawmakers backed the directive of rapporteur Daniel Dalton, British ECR MEP, that covers a wide range of topics, by 474 votes to 163 and 14 abstentions. It amends the unfair commercial practices directive, the consumer rights directive, the unfair contract terms directive and the price indication directive. It was proposed together with a proposal on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers as part of the 'New Deal for Consumers' tabled by the EU executive two years ago.
The majority of MEPs didn't prop up the amendments proposed by the Polish EPP MEP Roza Grafin von Thun und Hohenstein. According to her, the directive does not solve the burning issue of the dual quality of products and contains an open list of exemptions which allow to sell products of different quality in seemingly identical packaging, and it obliges the consumer to prove every time that he or she was treated unfairly. The amendment she proposed to prohibit this unfair practice was signed in advance by over 100 MEPs from 25 Member States.
During the debate, Antanas Guoga, EPP MEP from Lithuania, said: “It's an eventful day that we cannot reach, despite everything, a normal agreement where we do not have discrimination. Discrimination week after week. Just last week we saw discrimination against the peripheral countries in the mobility package. Now we want to discriminate people by having second-rate products.”
Olga Sehnalova, S&D MEP from the Czech Republic, who for many years is combating the double quality of products, also has presented amendments. For her, it is a dual standard if some consumers' rights are taken to be more important than those of others, and some people may justifiably feel they are second-class citizens. She said she will fight until the dual quality is abolished and outlawed. According to her, dual quality needs to be regarded as an unfair practice.
Despite the many good provisions on transparency and consumer rights online, one crucial piece is missing from this legislation: a clear ban on the dual quality of products, Julia Reda, German Green MEP, stressed. “I regret to see that this Parliament is divided not on ideological lines, but on geographical lines, where Members from the western states seem to think that this deal is good enough, even though Parliament has given up on its position of banning dual quality and the Central and Eastern European members are asking for a better deal. The Greens/EFA Group is not divided on this.”
Katerina Konecna, GUE/NGL MEP from the Czech Republic, pointed out that the adopted directive is a “slap in the face for all consumers in the Member States of Eastern and Central Europe”. She warned that it will be perceived very negatively by the citizens of these Member States, and it will further deepen the divide between East and West.