MPs vote to open online specs sales

New consumer law will give consumers ‘€1billion back in their pockets’ with raft of changes agreed

17 December 2013

MOVES to beef up consumer law have been approved by MPs and could see a 25% price cut in spectacles, easing of restrictions in the insurance market, the launching of group legal actions and restaurants obliged to say if their meals are home-made.

MPs backed the second reading of the planned consumer law and it will now go to the Senate next month for final approval. If the two houses cannot agree on the same wording then the MPs have the final say.

Opticians could feel the brunt quickest as the law specifically opens up internet sales and also says ophthalmologists will have to include the distance between the pupils on the prescription – a vital measurement to ensure glasses fit properly and do not strain the eyes.

At present this measurement is done by opticians and they have strongly opposed the opening up of the market. Internet suppliers have gotten round the restriction by asking customers to send a photograph with a ruler held above their eyes.

Surveys have shown that an average pair of specs costs €470 in France – twice the price of other European countries – and this will encourage online sales. Consumer Affairs Minister Benoît Hamon said this change could put “€1billion back into consumers’ pockets”.

Insurance contracts will be easier to cancel in another measure which allows customers to cancel at any time after the first year and not, as at present, only on the contract anniversary. Mortgage insurance will also be eased, with borrowers given a year in which to renegotiate cheaper cover.

Aggrieved consumers will also be able to join together to launch group actions against companies – although they will have to do so under the umbrella of a recognised consumer organisation. Health and environmental complaints are excluded.

The increase of ‘boil-in-the-bag restaurants’, where chefs offer heated-up frozen food, has prompted a move to oblige restaurants and takeaways to indicate if a dish is “home-made” – made on-site from the basics.

Meat suppliers will also be obliged to indicate the country of origin of all meats and all meat products.

Online purchases will also be protected with the cancellation period rising from the present seven to 14 days. The law also reduces the customer’s responsibility in the event of loss or damage in delivery.

MPs voted by a majority to allow pregnancy tests to be sold in supermarkets, ending pharmacies’ monopoly.

Measures to counter planned obsolescence of products mean manufacturers will be obliged to show a projected date for the continuation of supply of spare parts.

Previous article:
Watchdog attacks high cost of specs

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