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Empirical study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer ProtectionThe button solution to protect against hidden costs on the internet

Project period:
August 2013 – August 2014    

Client:
German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection

Project partner:
Prof. Dr. Gerald Spindler (University of Göttingen) and Prof. Dr. Annlies Blom (Survex GmbH)

In recent years, many consumers have been victims of hidden costs and subscription traps on the internet. Several providers did this by concealing the costs of internet services. With the law to better protect consumers against hidden costs in e-commerce (in short:  the button solution), which entered into force on 1 August 2012, the legislature has responded to these practices. Providers are now obliged to inform consumers clearly, understandably and in a prominent way about the main contract elements before the conclusion of a fee-based contract. Also buttons must be clearly marked with words such as "order with obligation to pay".

Staatssekretär für Verbraucherschutz Gerd Billen und ConPolicy Geschäftsführer Christian Thorun

Together with Prof Dr Gerald Spindler (University of Göttingen) and Prof Dr Annlies Blom (Survex GmbH), ConPolicy led an evaluation of the button solution amendment two years after its entry into force. For this, a literature review, an expert consultation, a market screening, a survey with 672 companies as well as a population-representative consumer survey with 1,000 respondents were conducted and evaluated. ConPolicy held the leadership position in this project, developed the analytical framework and the questionnaires and interpreted the findings.

The evaluation came to the following conclusions:

  • The law has reached its objectives.
  • Many companies see a challenge, however, because the law contains a number of vague legal terms that lead to legal uncertainty.
  • Legal uncertainty should not be countered by clarifying the law, but through co-regulation mechanisms.
  • In the future, it is important to strengthen enforcement measures and consumer information.

The study can be downloaded here.

The evaluation came to the following conclusions:

  • The law has reached its objectives.
  • Many companies see a challenge, however, because the law contains a number of vague legal terms that lead to legal uncertainty.
  • Legal uncertainty should not be countered by clarifying the law, but through co-regulation mechanisms.
  • In the future, it is important to strengthen enforcement measures and consumer information.

 

The study can be downloaded here.

Project of

Christian Thorun

Prof. Dr. Christian Thorun Managing Director

+49 (0)30 259369-01 thorun@conpolicy.de

Jana Diels

Project Manager Consumer Research

+49 (0)30 259369-02 diels@conpolicy.de