Minister Bruton announces public consultation as part of moves to ban excessive payment fees and pre-ticked boxes
The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton T.D., today (Thursday) published a consultation paper on the implementation of the provisions of the Consumer Rights Directive on excessive payment charges and pre-ticked payment boxes. While the Directive does not have to be adopted by EU Member States until December 2013, the Minister considers that early implementation of these provisions will be in the interest of Irish consumers. The Minister aims to have legislation in place in a matter of months after the completion of the consultation period on 12th October next.
Article 19 of the Directive seeks to tackle excessive payment charges by prohibiting businesses from charging consumers fees that exceed the cost to the business of the payment method used in the transaction. Though payment and payment-related fees are not widespread in Ireland, they are common in a number of sectors, mainly passenger travel, package holidays, and tickets for entertainment and other events.
Article 22 of the Directive seeks to tackle hidden charges to consumers by requiring traders to seek the consumer’s express consent to any payment additional to that agreed for the goods or services that form the main part of the bargain between the two parties. It also bans traders from inferring the consumer’s consent by means of opt-out provisions, the most common of which are the pre-ticked boxes on some websites that commit the consumer to paying for additional goods or services unless he or she unticks the boxes in question.
Making the announcement, Minister Bruton said:
“Transactions involving a consumer on the one hand and a business on the other are inherently unbalanced, and government has an obligation to regulate where the consumer needs protection. The rapid growth of online transactions poses particular challenges in this regard.
“These two measures are aimed at addressing two particular issues which are the source of many complaints from consumers – payment surcharges, and pre-ticked boxes. I am determined to do everything possible to avoid excessive charges, to ensure the greatest possible level of transparency in online transactions, so that customers will know at the start of a transaction what the complete price will be. I urge all interested parties to get involved in this consultation which I am determined will result in a better deal for consumers”.
The consultation paper can be accessed on the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation website at www.djei.ie/publications/commerce/2012/arts19&22crd.pdf . Individuals or organisations who wish to respond to the consultation should do so by Friday 12 October at the latest.