Why was the new Code adopted?
In the last years, following the technological development and Internet revolution, the number of regulatory initiatives has sharply risen since new social relations are born in the world web village. Our article will elaborate on the Greek Code of Practice for Consumer Protection in E-Commerce which was published in March 2017. The Code has been adopted in the form of a Ministerial Decision, which implies that it has binding effect on the interested stakeholders.
Which businesses are bound by the Code and under which circumstances?
- The Code regulates the relations between businesses and consumers, not between businesses.
- The Code applies to operations that conduct business in the sector of e-commerce. It covers any kind of transactions (sales or provision of services) in return for remuneration, that is made by electronic means (personal computers, smartphones, tablets), that is, without the physical presence of contracting parties.
- The Code covers businesses that are established in Greece, regardless of the place where is the final recipient of the products or services.
- Even if it is not explicitly foreseen, it can be construed that the Code applies to businesses that provide healthcare products or services on the Internet. It should be noted that the text of the Code does not limit the scope of its application to a specific category of e-commerce but it does generally apply to all business regardless of the means used and the commercial field concerned. Conversely, for example, in our previous article we focused on the EU Commission Guidelines for mobile health app developers which specifically target the mobile health market.
The Code stipulates the obligation to inform consumers before the conclusion of any contract. What does this obligation imply for businesses?
- Businesses shall inform consumers about:
- business details, namely: the trade name, the headquarters, post address, electronic mail address, telephone number, tax identification number, business registry number
- the main terms of the contract: basic product/ service characteristics, price, way of payment, guarantees, availability of the product/ service, performance deadline, possibility of withdrawal within 14 days
- Date of order acceptance or order confirmation
- Information shall be provided in Greek language (compulsory) or in any other language (optional).
- Information must be understandable, legitimate, true and updated, easily accessible and verifiable.
- Terms of the contract must be published on the business website, so that consumers are able to access it easily.
Which other business activities does the Code regulate?
- Advertisements: which shall be clear, accurate and shall not mislead consumers. Specific provisions are foreseen for vulnerable social groups such as people with disabilities, minors, elderly, who shall have equal and appropriate access to information.
- Adoption of security policy for electronic transactions. More specifically, businesses are required to implement the best existing practice and provide information to consumers about their security policy.
- Obligation to protect consumers’ personal data. Businesses shall comply with the applying legislation as well as Guidelines published by the Data Protection Authority. Additionally, they shall implement a Personal Data Protection Policy and inform consumers about it.
- Consumer service. Businesses shall ensure the existence of adequate human resources and efficient procedures (by means of telephone or e-mail), so that communication and service shall be provided within reasonable time.
Our law firm’s comment
The new Code of Conduct is of great importance for businesses that provide products or services on the web. Given the revolution in the field of digital health, we believe that businesses’ compliance with the Code will enhance trustworthiness in the digital health sector among consumers and patients. In our opinion, it is advisable that businesses of healthcare industry shall implement the Code and foresee specific contract terms with consumers or patients.