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Unfair Commercial Practices

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Unfair Commercial Practices

European consumers are protected against unfair commercial practices, whether they are misleading or aggressive. The EU ensures the same level of protection to all consumers irrespective of the place of purchase or sale in the EU.


Directive 2005/29/EC of 11 May 2005 concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market and amending Directives 84/450/EEC, 97/7/EC, 98/27/EC and 2002/65/EC and Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 (Unfair Commercial Practices Directive).


This Directive defines the commercial practices which are prohibited in the European Union (EU). It thus protects the economic interests of consumers before, during and after a commercial transaction has taken place.

Unfair commercial practices are those which:

  • do not comply with the requirements of professional diligence ;
  • are likely to materially distort the economic behaviour of the average consumer .

Certain population groups must be particularly protected due to their particular vulnerability to the practice or the product, because of their age (children or the elderly), credulity or mental or physical infirmity.

The Directive defines two specific categories of unfair commercial practices: misleading practices (by action or omission) and aggressive practices.


Misleading actions

A practice is misleading if it contains false or untrue information or is likely to deceive the average consumer, even though the information given may be correct, and is likely to cause him to take a transactional decision he would not have taken otherwise. Examples of such actions include false or deceiving information on:

  • the existence or nature of the product;
  • the main characteristics of the product (its availability, benefits, risks, composition, geographical origin, results to be expected from its use, etc.);
  • the extent of the trader's commitments;
  • the price or the existence of a specific price advantage;
  • the need for a service, or repair.

Misleading omissions

These arise when material information that the average consumer needs, according to the context, to take an informed transactional decision is omitted or provided in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner and thereby causes (or might cause) that consumer to take a purchase decision that he or she would not have otherwise taken.


Consumers’ transactional decisions must be made freely. They cannot be taken following the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence .

Several elements must be taken into consideration in order to determine whether an aggressive commercial practice occurs. These include:

  • the nature, location and duration of the aggressive practice;
  • the possible use of threatening or abusive language or behaviour;
  • the exploitation by the trader of any specific circumstance affecting the consumer in order to influence his/her decision;
  • any disproportionate non-contractual conditions imposed on the consumer who wishes to exercise his/her contractual rights (such as to terminate or switch a contract).

Annex I to the Directive contains a list of 31 commercial practices which should be considered unfair in all circumstances.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2005/29/EC



OJ L 149, 11.6.2005


Communication of the Commission of 14 March 2013 on the application of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive: Achieving a high level of consumer protection & Building trust in the Internal Market [ COM(2013)138 final - not published in the Official Journal] and

First report on the application of Directive 2005/29/EC concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market and amending Council Directive 84/450/EEC, Directives 97/7/EC, 98/27/EC and 2002/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council (Unfair Commercial Practices Directive) [ COM(2013)139 final - not published in the Official Journal]

The Report provides a first assessment of how Member States are applying the Directive, as well as an outline of the actions needed to maximize its benefits.

Thanks to the Directive national authorities have been able to curb a broad range of unfair business practices, such as providing untruthful information to consumers or using aggressive marketing techniques to influence their choices. Its legal framework is proving well-suited to ensure the fairness of the new on-line practices that are developing in parallel with the evolution of advertising sales techniques.

The Commission's assessment shows, however, that more should be done to guarantee a high level of consumer protection, particularly in cross-border trade. There is, therefore, a need for more stringent and consistent enforcement action.

The Communication identifies 5 key areas where enforcement should be stepped up: travel and transport, digital and on-line, financial services and immovable property. Key priorities for action include further developing the 2009 Guidance document, expanding the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive legal database, organising thematic workshops with national enforcers on areas of key concern for consumers and opening infringements procedures where the Commission has confirmation that Member States do not adequately comply with their transposition and enforcement obligations.

Last updated: 25.02.2014