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EU Consumer Guide Seeks To Spur, Protect Web Users

An Internet consumers' bill of rights for citizens of the EU aims to promote online shopping and address security concerns.

The European Commission, taking complaints of consumers to heart, has published a consumer rights guide that it hopes will encourage Internet surfers to spend time online, and do so safely, particularly across country borders.

While the guide -- a sort of Internet consumer's bill of rights -- covers various aspects of Internet use, it could help users in particular have more confidence in shopping across country borders. The project is the brainchild of EU Telecom Commissioner Viviane Reding and EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva.

"In the EU, consumer rights online should not depend on where a company or website is based," Reding said in a statement." National borders should no longer complicate European consumers' lives when they go online to buy a book or download a song. In spite of progress made, we need to ensure that there is a single market for consumers as well as businesses on the Web."

Citing the results of a EU Commission poll that found that just 12% of EU Internet users feel safe making purchases, Reding added that consumers would shop more on the Web "if they have clear information about their rights."

The guide also informs EU Web users that Web sites must inform users what personal data it has stored about them. "This applies to data you have provided directly or data it [the Web site] has obtained from other websites," the guide states.

And while curtailing spam is a goal, anti-spam enforcement is likely to be difficult, EU officials concede. The EU's "ban on spam" has been in effect since 2003 to little avail. EU officials have said that 65% of European Internet users complain about getting excessive amounts of spam.

The sensitive topic of digital content licensing of games and music is broached by the guide, with the goal of establishing a clear understanding of what and how content can be downloaded online without violating any laws.

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