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ACM: changes to consumer law should protect people better

03-04-2019

The increase in the number of independent contractors as well as the evolution of the digital economy call for a new impetus to consumer protection law. That is why the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is calling for changes to laws and regulations, so that independent contractors and consumers will be better protected. That is the central message in this year’s InSight, ACM’s annual publication with recommendations to the Dutch legislature, which is published today.

Legal protection for independent contractors

Independent contractors who wish to get rid of unwanted business contracts, concluded over the phone, can only do so after paying an early-termination fee or by going to court. These are significant barriers for most independent contractors. Since independent contractors, in these cases, are more comparable to consumers than to businesses, ACM recommends that they be offered the same protection as consumers. This is why ACM asks the legislature to expand legal protection against unfair commercial practices by also including independent contractors. Better protection ensures that markets work better for people and businesses.

Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, explains: ‘ACM believes that, in their roles as buyers, independent contractors are comparable to consumers. Consumer law already applies to independent contractors who use their purchased products and services entirely or largely for private purposes. We will devote more attention to the enforcement of their rights. In addition, we will provide information to independent contractors, clarifying in what situations consumer law applies to them.’

Protection against unfair online commercial practices

In its recommendations, ACM also looks at online commercial practices. People who wish to make online purchases are confronted with all kinds of clever sales techniques that take advantage of the subconscious of consumers. As a result thereof, they are more easily swayed to make a purchase, which may result in disappointment afterwards. That is why ACM asks the legislature to support our call to draw up a code of conduct for online businesses, and to take into account scientific insights about consumer behavior when writing new legislation.

Mr. Snoep continues: ‘We are calling on companies to design the choice architectures on their websites in such a way that the behavioral pitfalls of humans will not be abused. If it turns out that businesses design choice architectures to nudge people towards making decisions they would otherwise not make, we will take action. In addition, we will draw up a guideline, together with the industry, which will provide a detailed interpretation of the duty of care for businesses and of the statutory standard of professional diligence. That is how we wish to help shape the standard for professional diligence in the digital economy.’  

2019 Annual report: ACM saves society EUR 880 million

Today, ACM also published its 2018 annual report. It explains, among other things, how ACM ensures that markets work well for people and businesses. We estimate that our efforts towards that goal saved Dutch society 880 million euros in 2018.

For example, ACM in 2018 took action against consumer abuse in the digital economy and against unlawful practices in the debt collection sector. In addition, ACM helped towards the energy transition, for example, by promoting international trade in electricity, and by facilitating sustainable energy initiatives.

About ACM

A healthy economy is the cornerstone of our prosperity and well-being. We contribute to that healthy economy by ensuring that our markets work well for people and businesses. When markets function well, businesses compete fairly with one another, and people and businesses are not harmed by unfair practices. People and businesses know what rules apply, and how they can exercise their rights.

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