Clock is ticking for Facebook, Twitter and Google to comply with EU consumer rules – HAYES
The three leading social media companies are under pressure from the EU to protect consumers from scams, Brian Hayes MEP has reported.
“EU consumer authorities and organisations have received a growing number of complaints from consumers who have been targeted by fraud or scams when using social media websites, as well as having been subject to certain terms of services that do not respect EU consumer law.
“As a result of that, EU consumer authorities and the European Commission have met with Facebook, Twitter and Google to discuss their proposed solutions. The companies in question will finalise detailed measures on how to comply with the EU regulatory framework in April.
“We’ve all been exposed to scams on our social platforms. Some of these include:
- Scams involving payments taken from consumers
- Subscription traps where consumers are offered to register for a free trial but are not given clear and sufficient information
- Marketing of counterfeited products
- Fake promotions like “win a smart phone for 1 €” have proliferated over social media which were in fact a true contest but entailing a hidden long term subscriptions for several hundred euros per year.
“Social media companies also need to take more responsibility in addressing scams and fraud happening on their platforms, and the fact that their HQs are based in the U.S shouldn’t exempt them from complying with European law. Given the growing importance of online social networks it is time to make sure that our strong EU rules, that are there to protect consumers from unfair practices, are complied with in this sector.
“I am hopeful that Facebook, Twitter and Google take responsibility to protect their network users and that their proposals to deal with this issue are sufficient enough not to lead to an enforcement action.”
Early assurance needed that Brexit deal with be voted by unanimity – Hayes
Following the official triggering of Article 50 today (Wednesday), Brian Hayes MEP said that it is vital for Ireland that EU negotiators give assurance that the final Brexit deal will be voted by unanimity.
“We are at a crucial moment in the EU’s history. The stakes could not be higher for Ireland and the EU as we go into two years of intense negotiations. In Ireland we need to be prepared and ready for a situation that will involve a number of different governments, various Taoisigh and an enormous amount of political and diplomatic effort.
“It is absolutely vital that we get an early assurance from Michel Barnier and EU negotiators that the final Brexit deal will only be voted through unanimity. In other words, the concerns of Ireland or any other Member State cannot be left behind.
“There have been constant appeals for the EU-27 countries to stick together and to negotiate as one throughout the process. If we negotiate as one, we also need to vote as one. Leaving the option open for one single Member State to be left disgruntled at the end of the process is not the best way to proceed.
“While it is accepted that the official rule for the final European Council vote on the Brexit deal is by Qualified Majority Voting, the actual procedure should not be pushed that far. The European Council’s way of doing business on a day-to-day basis is around reaching consensus on all EU agreements and legislation. It is very rare that a dossier would be put to a vote where certain Member States would have to vote against or abstain.
“Brexit is probably going to be the most important vote that the European Council has ever undertaken. Member States need to get clarity at an early stage that this deal won’t be railroaded through.
“The government and the Irish representation in Brussels has done a good job at getting Ireland’s priorities high on the agenda in Brussels. Equally, we have to recognise the concerns of other Member States; Cyprus is very vulnerable to a hard Brexit – the UK is their largest trading partner. Spain also has very specific concerns about the future of Gibraltar.
“The Council should make it clear from the start that all 27 Member States have rights in this process and that ultimately all concerns have to be met. This, from Ireland’s perspective, is crucial given that we will be most affected by the negative impact of Brexit. We also must remember that all phases of this negotiation will be subject to legal challenge and ultimate determination in the courts.
“Next week the European Parliament will be the first EU institution to adopt a formal negotiating position on Brexit by way of a resolution voted by all MEPs. We should remember that the European Parliament will play an important role throughout the Brexit process and will need to give its consent to the final deal.”
New energy labels on household appliances will make it easier for consumers to save money – HAYES
Household appliances are to transition from the A+++ to G rating back to the basic A to G scale, making it easier for consumers to choose products which are more energy efficient and less costly to run, Brian Hayes MEP said.
“The new labels A to G will be much clearer and make it easier for consumers to make energy smart decisions. Thanks to the new energy labelling, households could save hundreds of euros in energy bills every year. The energy rating directive has been a useful tool for a number of years, but it lost its clarity when the ‘A+’ classes were introduced,” he stated.
“Consumers will still have to wait a while before they see new labels in stores – as the deadline for implementation is six years. However a new database system is also to be introduced displaying all product models which have to carry an EU Energy Label.
“This database will help consumers choose the product which is right for them, and will be useful to market surveillance authorities whose remit is to ensure products are delivering the efficiency they say they will.
“We have seen in the motor industry how abuses can undermine legislation and ultimately consumer confidence and that is something we want to avoid on a broader scale.”
Commission must now set out to Ireland what is legal under Water Framework Directive- Hayes
The European Commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella, has written to Brian Hayes MEP and stated that simply imposing fines for wasteful usage of water may not be enough to address our water infrastructure problems.
“I put the question to Commissioner Vella about whether Fianna Fáil’s submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Water proposing fines for ‘wilful abuse of water’ would ensure compliance with the EU Water Framework Directive.
“Commissioner Vella has raised serious doubts about whether Fianna Fáil’s proposal would be sufficient to address our water infrastructure problems and bring us in line with the Water Framework Directive. The Commissioner also pointed out that Ireland, under the previous Fianna Fáil government, made a clear commitment to introduce water charges to comply with the Directive.
“It is time for the Commission to set out unequivocally what is and what is not legal in terms of the Water Framework Directive. There should be full disclosure from the Commission and it should make itself available to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on the Future funding of water services. It is time to put a conclusion to the ongoing questions of how we can ensure compliance with EU law on water.
“One thing we do get definitive confirmation on is that we cannot revert to our previous practice of paying for water through general taxation. This would clearly constitute a breach of the Water Framework Directive for which we would be liable for massive fines.
“We simply cannot put in place something that is in breach our environmental obligations and the Water Framework Directive. As the Commissioner points out, we have an abysmal track record when it comes to compliance with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and the Directive on drinking water.
“On the basis of this letter from Commissioner Vella, it is my view that we need to have some form of water charges that applies the polluter pays principle but also provides a reliable revenue stream. There has been way too much politicking around water. We need to what is right for the consumer and what is right for our water supply system.
“The government, through the confidence and supply arrangement, directed the Expert Water Commission to deliver proposals on the future funding of water services. We must take this work seriously and actually use the proposals delivered by the Expert Water Commission as a basis for all parties to come to agreement.”
Daniele Nouy confirms SSM is watching Brexit business competition – Hayes
In response to a question from Brian Hayes MEP, the Chair of the ECB’s Single Supervisory Mechanism Daniele Nouy confirmed that the SSM is watching closely the competition for attracting business as a result of Brexit.
Mr. Hayes said:
“It is reassuring to know that the SSM is closely watching the hunt for business arising out of Brexit. If it is the case that financial institutions are being offered the incentives of a light regulatory regime in certain locations, we need the Eurozone watchdog to take a tough stance against this.
“A regulatory race to the bottom is in nobody’s interest. There needs to be absolute consistency of regulatory approach and a level playing field when it comes to banks’ capital requirements and how their internal models are treated.
“Minister Murphy was absolutely right to flag this issue. Two EU supervisory authorities, ESMA and EIOPA, have also raised concerns about regulatory arbitrage as a result of Brexit. The Central Bank of Ireland has been clear that banks cannot simply move to Dublin just to set up brass plate operations so they can passport financial services into the EU. Unfortunately, we are not seeing a similar approach from some other regulators whose number one priority seems to be attracting jobs and new tax revenue.
“Ms. Nouy said that there are loopholes that can allow banks to be given lighter regulatory treatment based on their location. Some locations may allow a financial institution to be treated as broker-dealer firm, which is effectively a light version of a bank but is not supervised as a bank.
“Ms. Nouy also warned that subsidiaries or branches can be set up in the Eurozone that perform a large proportion of their ‘parent’ bank’s capital market operations. The important thing is that these subsidiaries are not empty shells and that they are staffed properly and have risk management functions and internal control functions. The concern is that some locations are allowing for this empty shell approach in the search for their piece of the Brexit pie.
“What is really needed is a proper common approach among regulators across the EU for the authorisation of new firms. This could avoid loopholes and ensure a level playing field when it comes to business competition from Brexit. There are serious systemic risks at play here.
“In Ireland we know all too well about how light regulatory regimes can come crashing down. If we see such a regulatory approach in other Eurozone countries, we have a responsibility to raise these concerns.”
Published in the Irish Times on 24th March 2017