Bloomberg News

EU Proposes Optional Sales Law to Cut Trade Barriers in Region

October 11, 2011

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The European Union proposed an optional region-wide sales law that could boost the EU economy with an extra 26 billion euros ($35.4 billion) in trade within the bloc’s borders.

An identical sales law across the 27-nation EU that would work alongside existing national laws would cut costs and make it easier for companies to trade, the European Commission said today.

“It will provide firms with an easy and cheap way to expand their business to new markets in Europe while giving consumers better deals and a high level of protection,” EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said in an e-mailed statement.

The law, which still needs the approval of lawmakers in the European Parliament and of European governments, would save companies an average of 10,000 euros that it costs to adapt sales contracts in line with laws in each additional country, plus about 3,000 euros to adapt websites to sell online, according to the commission.

The plans risk leading to uncertainty for companies and consumers, said the Law Society of England and Wales.

“An ‘optional instrument’ of contract law would have no underlying jurisprudence and practitioners are concerned that this would lead to uncertainty for businesses and consumers as to how it would be interpreted and applied,” said John Wotton, the society’s president. “It would be difficult to ensure the uniform application of the new system across the 27 EU member states with their different legal cultures.”

Brussels-based lobby group Eurochambres said the plan “seems appealing at first glance, but still needs to be carefully assessed.”

“Question marks also remain about the value of a regime that may only be applicable to cross-border transactions, not also to domestic ones,” said Arnaldo Abruzzini, secretary general of Eurochambres. “On the positive side, an alternative dispute resolution scheme is foreseen and should facilitate dispute management.”

--Editor: Peter Chapman, Robert Valpuesta

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net


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