4th Congress – Consumer Protection in the Digital Environment

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At the first working session of the 4th Congress on Thursday 5 October, Europe’s notaries offered their collaboration to the European institutions to strengthen legal certainty for consumers and businesses in the digital environment. A series of proposals were put forward in the context of the European Commission’s strategy on the digital single market.

Introducing the topic, Peter Bischoff-Everding, Deputy Head of Unit for Consumer and Marketing Law at the European Commission, gave an update on current EU legislation. He felt that priority should be given to improving transparency in contractual relations, particularly on electronic platforms.

Following on from these remarks, the Spanish notariat presented, through Lorenzo Prats Albentosa, Professor of Civil Law at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, a proposal to intervene at the pre-contractual stage of an economic transaction. The aim of this proposal would be to ensure that a contract complies with EU consumer legislation. According to this proposal, notaries would also provide consumers with impartial advice on the legal and economic consequences of their contractual commitments. The work carried out by notaries would be certified by a “notarial seal of conformity” affixed to all online contracts that they supervise. This seal could be used by companies as a quality label and would also provide them with greater legal certainty and confidence. “The digital market is perceived as a market that is not secure today, because there is no accompaniment in the pre-contractual phase which is as effective as that provided by notaries for ‘tangible’ documents,” he explained.

Remco Van der Kuijp, a Dutch notary, presented a proposal concerning the identification of the parties and their digital capacity. Already in place in the Netherlands and developed with Philips, this ‘e-identity’ system enables reliable identification of the parties involved in an online transaction, thus contributing to consumer confidence.

Tamás Parti, President of the Chamber of Notaries of Budapest, spoke about blockchain and its possible use by notaries. Blockchain induces a relationship of trust compatible with notarial trust. However, it can only be a tool and not an independent legal channel, in that it does not replace the necessary involvement of a third party.

Finally, Örjan Brinkman, President of the European Consumer Association (BEUC), insisted on the legal vacuum to be filled in terms of compensation for consumers affected by fraudulent practices or engaged in litigation.

The conclusions of Topic I and the working papers are available at the following link: https://www.notariesofeurope-congress2017.eu/en/media-library/

Congress website at www.notariesofeurope-congress2017.eu
Congress Facebook page: @notariescongress
Congress Twitter account: @NotaryCongress and #NotariesCongress