The deadline for the transposition of Directives 2019/770 (supply of digital content and digital services) and 2019/771 (sale of consumer goods) expired yesterday.
On the dedicated page for each of the Directives on the official EUR-Lex portal, only implementation measures in four Member States (Bulgaria, Spain, France and Austria) are listed. In fact, if we analyse the diplomas indicated for each of these countries, in France we are dealing only with a legislative authorisation to regulate the subject and in Austria we are dealing with a Federal Act amending the Consumer Protection Authorities Cooperation Act, the Telecommunications Act 2003 and the Competition Act, which does not transpose the Directives. That leaves Spain, whose transposition legal regime we have already briefly commented on in this blog, and Bulgaria.
The transposition of the two Directives into Bulgarian law was made by Decree No. 90, made available on 11 March 2021, which approves the Law on the supply of digital content and digital services and the sale of goods. As in Spain, the two directives are transposed through a single legislative act, but, unlike in Spain, the two subjects (supply of digital content and digital services on the one hand and sale of consumer goods on the other hand) are treated separately. After a first chapter with some special provisions (arts. 1 to 3), the second chapter is dedicated to the supply of digital content and services (arts. 4 to 22) and the third chapter to the sale of consumer goods (arts. 23 to 40). Then there are further chapters dedicated to claims (arts. 41 to 48), means of dispute resolution (arts. 49 to 56), implementation and control (arts. 57 to 62) and administrative sanction (arts. 63 to 75). There are also a number of additional provisions and final and transitional provisions.
From a substantive point of view, I would highlight the maintenance of the liability (or legal guarantee) period at the minimum of two years provided for in the Directives (as regards the sale of consumer goods, Spanish law is more favourable to the consumer, as was pointed out in a previous post) – arts. 14-2 and 31-1. Under art. 44, in addition to the legal guarantee period, an identical limitation period is provided for. The period within which the lack of conformity is presumed to have existed at the time of supply/delivery is also stipulated as a minimum of one year (art. 32-1). There is no obligation on the consumer to notify the seller of the lack of conformity.
Although no further implementation measures have yet been reported, there is news about the process in several other Member States.
Karin Sein and Martin Ebers divide (taking into account the texts published in Vol. 12, no. 2 (2021) of JIPITEC (Journal of Intellectual Property, Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Law), which is a very interesting read) the countries belonging to the civil law family, as regards the transposition of the Directives, into three groups: (i) transposition into the general part of contract law in the Civil Code (Germany, Lithuania and Estonia); (ii) transposition into the special contracts part of the Civil Code (the Netherlands); (iii) transposition into a piece of legislation other than the Civil Code (Austria and Poland).
This classification is very interesting, although I believe it can be further broken down, separating three possible situations in the last mentioned group: (i) transposition into a legal regime regulating consumer relations in general; (ii) transposition in a separate but single statute regulating both the supply of digital content and digital services and the sale of consumer goods; and (iii) transposition in two separate statutes, one relating to the supply of digital content and digital services and the other to the sale of consumer goods.
This would result in five categories:
(1) General part of contract law in the Civil Code.
(2) Special part on contracts in the Civil Code.
(3) Legal regime regulating consumer relations in general.
(4) Single separate legal regime.
(5) Two separate legal regimes.
In group 1, we have Germany, Lithuania, and Estonia; in group 2, the Netherlands; in group 3, Spain (and we will probably soon have Poland, as mentioned here, and France, given the Preliminary Draft presented in March); in group 4, Bulgaria. The plans of the Austrian Ministry of Justice, indicated here by Brigitta Zöchling-Jud, seem to point to the inclusion of Austria in group 4, although it may be in the vicinity of the border with group 3.
Another interesting question, not to be confused with this one, is whether the subject of conformity with the contract will be uniformly regulated for the supply of digital content and digital services and for the sale of consumer goods, or whether there will be two different sets of provisions.
Spain has opted for a unitary regulation (this also seems to be the path followed by Austria and, at least in part, as regards the conformity criteria, by Poland), while Bulgaria regulates successively both subjects in the same statute. The Netherlands also seems to be aiming at regulating the two subjects autonomously, as is clear from this text by Marco B. M. Loos. The same can be said of Estonia, according to this text by Irene Kull, and Lithuania (see the text by Laurynas Didžiulis).
Other classifications could be interesting, such as the one regarding the scope of application of the transposition rules, i.e. whether they are or not limited to consumer relations. This remains for a future text. A final note on Portugal. There is still no news in the public domain about the transposition of the directives. The Secretary of State for Commerce, Services and Consumer Protection (João Torres) said in an interview in mid-March that the transposition of these Directives and of Directive 2019/2161 (which amends several consumer law directives) was being prepared, promising to “make a difference in the short term” in the field of the online sale of goods online and the supply of digital content and digital services. It was also indicated that the government is working on a law to increase the liability of digital platforms that sell third-party goods.
 Website consultation made on 30 June 2021.