The Omnibus Directive: key objectives and national implementation
The Omnibus Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/2161), also referred to as the "Enforcement and Modernisation Directive", is aimed at strengthening consumer protection and enhancing enforcement measures as the world gears up for the digital age. Recognising the increased use of online platforms and marketplaces, it encourages Member States to adopt specific measures to maintain a high level of consumer protection, including in these channels.
Romania transposed the Omnibus Directive into the local legislation in May 2022 (falling slightly behind the implementation calendar) through Government Emergency Ordinance No. 58/2022. Now, more than half a year into its application, additional changes are under discussion with respect to the national implementation legislation, while the groundwork is laid for the Collective Redress Directive to be transposed later this year.
Amongst the many concepts introduced in support of consumers dealing with a wide variety of offers and purchase alternatives, the Omnibus Directive emphasises standardising the system for evaluating and enforcing penalties and introducing turnover-based penalties for widespread infringements with a Union dimension, similar to the competition and GDPR-related legislation.
Consumers' protection against abusive clauses was further strengthened following the implementation of the Omnibus Directive, as claims against unfair terms on preformulated contracts are no longer time-barred and courts are called to assess ex officio the existence of such abusive clauses. To give full effect to overarching consumer protection principles, clauses found abusive must be eliminated from all the then applicable contracts and, pursuant to a draft bill currently under debate in Parliament, the economic entity is given 30 days to refund the consumers all amounts collected pursuant to the abusive clauses.
In terms of unfair trading practices, the Omnibus Directive establishes clear-cut rules on the sale of dual-quality products and enhances transparency requirements, to be made available to consumers in a comprehensive and intelligible manner.
Consumers are afforded efficient, cost-free remedies against unfair practices, ranging from product replacement, price reduction and full price refund to immediate product replacement if deficiencies are found in the first 30 days after purchase.
In the field of consumer rights dealing with traders, Government Emergency Ordinance No. 58/2022 prescribes detailed rules of information and transparency in the pre-contractual phase and recognises the consumer's discretionary right to withdraw from the contract within the first 14 days.
The Omnibus Directive and the local implementation legislation have enhanced the protection of consumer rights with a particular focus on online trading. Coupled with higher sanctions and a more transparent system of traders' infringement records, this legislation will likely be a powerful tool for regulators in monitoring traders' market behaviour and their attention to consumers' rights.