Cooperation needed to protect consumers buying bundled products

On the 6th of November, regulators, ADR bodies, consumer organisations and representatives from the European Commission gathered in Brussels for a cross-sectoral, cross-authority dialogue on how to better protect consumers who buy bundled products.

Bundled products are different types of goods and services packaged together in one single contract. They are found within the same sector (such as the very common gas and electricity contract) but also across sectors, such as contracts offering energy supply, insurance and telecommunications services.

While bundles can be beneficial to consumers in terms of price, convenience of simplicity, they also raise some challenges when it comes to protecting consumers and enforcing their rights. With different (sectorial) rules and contractual conditions applying to the different parts of the bundle, it is sometimes difficult to identify which consumer protection authority, regulator or ADR body is competent to treat open disputes linked to a bundle. This is why cooperation in this area is more needed than ever, and should be encouraged and supported by national and European authorities.

The regulatory roundtable on “Bundled Products: Dispute Resolution & Consumer Rights Enforcement” was organised under the Partnership for the Enforcement of European Rights (PEER), an initiative led by Europe’s energy regulators to improve the enforcement of the European consumers’ rights through enhanced inter-authority cooperation at EU level.

The workshop also included the presentation of the CEER Guide on Bundled Products, which puts forward a set of principles for companies and regulators, applicable in all sectors, to help better protect consumers who buy bundles.

10 Principles for Companies that offer Bundled Products:

  1. Ensure transparency
  2. Keep it simple    
  3. Communicate clear and understandable contract terms and conditions
  4. Apply clear liability principles where there are multiple parties/contracts involved in the bundled product
  5. Comparison tools should endeavour to reflect features of all components in a bundle
  6. Allow customers the possibility to switch out of a bundle
  7. A single bill or a single summary sheet or single portal for consumers to find their different bills associated with their bundle.
  8. Make clear the choice of payment methods for bundled-only products
  9. Signpost the responsible (in-house or external) complaint handler
  10. Protect essential services

3 Principles for Regulators:

  1. Clarify and educate companies on the rules and obligations applicable to bundles in general consumer law and in sectoral rules
  2. Monitor bundled products
  3. Cooperate across sectors with relevant authorities

The guide is supported by BEREC, BEUC and NEON and other organisations are invited to subscribe to it.