Consumer rights for downloads and streaming services

Imagine you download a game or stream a movie and something does not work. Soon, there could be common rules for the supply of digital content across the EU.

How did we get here?

The European Commission wants to push the Digital Single Market. Very badly. You can't help it, they will do it. It's one of the top priorities of Jean-Claude Juncker and his team. It is very important. But they need a point to start from. And as there are only two Member States (Great Britain and the Netherlands) which have specific rules on this topic, they went for digital content (as well as portability and physical goods, the latter being the sister bill of this one). 


Why is this important for me?

You get a Digital Single Market, what else can you wish for? Jokes aside: this is a consumer oriented proposal. Okay, businesses get a level playing field an EU wide market with the same rules for their digital content, which might potentially save them some money - depending on the level of consumer protection - and increase the range of products. And it might make things easier, also for consumers: On the Internet, you don't really know anymore where the game comes from that you download or the music that you stream. Geography doesn't make sense here. So in case something doesn't work, you should have the same rights no matter what.


What's the content?

This proposal applies to digital content which includes movies, music, software, games but also cloud storage, social media or files for 3D printing. There is a seperate, sister proposal for goods (e.g. toys, TVs, books, ect.) so that all products are supposed to be covered.

The proposed law makes sure you get a compensation (called remedy) in case the stream doesn't work or the software is defective. And you shall get that remedy forever - there will be no time limit to the supplier’s liability for such defects, because – unlike goods – digital content is not subject to wear and tear. Yet, the Council changed that - a bit: When it is a "one time buy", like when you download a movie or a game, the liability is limited (2 years or more if the Member State decides so). You would also be able to end long term contracts (like a Netflix subscription) which is not always possible today.

The rules also apply to content you get for free but you have to provide personal data for (data is the new gold/oil/[fill in something valuable]). If the consumer ends the contract, the new rules state that the supplier should stop using the personal data. And the rules also apply to CDs and DVDs, since they are digital content - just on a tangible medium. So there are the same rules for a movie, no matter how/where you buy it. Products with embedded software - e.g. a smart TV or a autonomous car - might also fall under these rules (and not under the other ones on classic goods). Yet, while MEPs support that view, the Councel decided against and this will be one of the biggest points of discussion during trilogues.


What's happening with this legislation in the future?

The Member States already agreed on a common position in the Council in June 2017. In the European Parliament, both the Committee on Consumer Affairs and the one on Legal Affairs wanted to be in the lead and are now co-responsible for this bill. They agreed on their joint report in November 2017 and trilogue negotiations will start before the end of 2017.


Related Bills:

Cross-border portability: Access to streaming services from abroad

New consumer rules for online shopping

Updated European data protection laws

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