Cooperation needed to protect consumers buying bundled products

On the 6th of November, regulators, ADR bodies from different sectors (including rail, telecoms, energy, financial services), consumer bodies and 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 goods/services that are packaged together in one contract and can offer some benefits such as convenience to consumers. They are found within the same sector (such as the very common gas and electricity contract) but also across sectors, such as contract energy supply, insurance or phone offers.

With different rules and contractual conditions applying to the different parts of the bundles, these offers raise challenges for consumer protection and enforcement that are similar across sectors and across countries.

The regulatory roundable on “Bundled Products: Dispute Resolution & Consumer Rights Enforcement” organised by BEUC (The European Consumer Organisation), the Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER) and NEON under the Partnership for the Enforcement of European Rights (PEER) framework looked at the current and upcoming challenges and presented the CEER guide on bundled products.

The guide on bundled products includes a set of principles for companies and regulators, applicable in all sectors, to help better protect consumers:

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.