26th September 2012
The European Commission plans to create an entirely new regime of sales contract law to operate across Europe could inflict severe damage to the single market as the Commission is proposing introducing a new set of laws to govern cross border trade, in addition to the exisiting schemes.
So instead of having 27 national legal regimes to choose from - which is the position at present - people will have 28. It becomes a game of legislative lucky-dip. We should be making cross-border shopping or procurement easier, but this scheme would be confusing and ultimately unhelpful to the single market.
Of course that is one complicated possibility, but the other potential upshot is even worse. The introduction of such a law could be only the start of a process that leads to a full-scale harmonisation of contract law. Then every contract across Europe would be controlled by a single EU legal regime and would pay no respect to the different legal traditions across the continent.
The EU needs to learn that more laws at the EU level are not the answer. There are many actions which the commission should be prioritising to encourage cross-border trade ahead of this one. For example, language challenges, resolution of disputes and delivery concerns are the chief obstacles to the effective operation of the single market. That is where the commission should concentrate its fire.
The key test for any proposals should be the "value added" for consumers and businesses. If there is no clear benefit, which in my opinion there isn't, then the proposals should be dropped. We are still in the very early stages of these proposals so there is still time for common sense to prevail.