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DIR. (EU) 2019/770 and (EU) 2019/771, on contracts. Its transposition.
May 8, 2021

After a difficult negotiation, following the Commission's withdrawal of the non nato (EU) 2019/771, the instruments were finalised on 20 May 2019, after three and a half years of successive and coordinated work on both.

Taken together, Directive (EU) 2019/770 concerns certain aspects of contracts for the supply of digital content and services while Directive (EU) 2019/771 concerns certain aspects of contracts for the sale of goods, repealing Directive 1999/44/EC.

The instruments were negotiated from the perspective of the consumer's position, in the framework of the General Consumer Directive 2011/83/EU and the Refit action on consumer contracts implemented in Directive (EU) 2019/2161 of 27 November amending Directive 93/13/EEC (unfair terms); Directives 98/6/EC (price indication); 2005/29/EC (unfair commercial practices) and 2011/83/EU, as regards improving the application and modernising the Union's consumer protection rules.

The deadline for transposition of Dir. 2019/2161 is 28 November 2021 and its provisions will apply from 28 May 2022. While for Dir. 2019/770 and 771, the deadline is 1 July 2021 and they will apply from 1 January 2022.

Directives 2019/770 and 771 aim at specific consumer protection in the contracts to which they refer. The former will apply to any contract under which the trader supplies or undertakes to supply digital content or services to a consumer (such as downloads: music, films or Apps; applications; social media profiles or e-cloud services) and the consumer pays or undertakes to pay a price or provide personal data to the trader. It does not, however, apply to the contracts or supplies listed in Art. 3, such as financial contracts or supplies, while it completes its regulatory perimeter with a list of definitions (Art. 2). Arts. 7 and 8 determine the subjective and objective conformity requirements, including functionality, compatibility and interoperability of the content. Non-compliance and lack of conformity are subject to the remedies (corrective measures) set out in Arts. 13 and 14, on the basis that the burden of proof lies with the entrepreneur and his liability in case of non-performance of the supply or service. The relationship of the consumer to third party rights, especially intellectual property, is set out in Art. 10.

The Directive starts from a degree of harmonisation that ensures the equality of digital consumers to others, on the basis of technological neutrality, as well as the imperativeness, in principle, of its provisions. It excludes digital elements embedded in goods, which were eventually transferred to Directive 2019/771 (Art. 2.5 b).

 Dir. 771 (sale and purchase of goods). online and offline) sets out the general regime of conformity criteria, based on the repealed 1999 Directive, as well as remedies in case of non-compliance. It provides for four subjective and four objective requirements, with the addition of correct installation and accessory elements and packaging instructions. Furthermore, goods with digital elements will have to be updated, up to a maximum of two years, including security updates, opening the debate on obsolescence in a circular economy. The burden of proof of conformity for a period of up to one year for defects that become apparent within that period of time, fixed from delivery (regulated by national law) will, in principle, be on the seller, with specific rules being established for goods with digital elements, with the warranty period for digital supplies being two years. Remedies (repair, replacement, price reduction or termination) are extended to the consumer's right to suspend the price.

This complex legislation is transposed into Spanish law by Royal Decree-Law. Specifically, Royal Decree-Law 7/2021, of 27 April, in view of the tight deadlines for transposition into Spanish law. The transposition of Directive (EU) 2019/2161 remains pending, which will be done by ordinary legislative procedure.

R.D.L 7/2021 amends R. D. Legislativo 1/2007, (TRLGDCU), which was last amended by R. D-L 1/2021, with regard to situations of social and economic vulnerability. The new text is now included in Chapters II and IV of the recast text, integrating the provisions with the existing ones where necessary. The transposition emphasises Directive 2019/770, which is the novelty of European digital contract law, based on technology neutrality and respect for horizontal data protection and special intellectual property rules. It enhances the protection of the Dir.

With regard to its articulation with private law, Art. 116 of the TR establishes the incompatibility of the actions provided for in the Directive with the exercise of the actions derived from the reorganisation provided for in the Civil Code, while, nevertheless, the consumer or user may be compensated for the damages derived from the lack of conformity, in accordance with civil and commercial legislation.

The relationship of the directive with national law and its impact on the Spanish legal system, as well as the consequences of the mandatory nature of the new contract law in new contracts, will have to be analysed.

It should not be forgotten that it will only apply to entrepreneurs targeting the Spanish market, insofar as each European legal system, although the two directives present a high degree of harmonisation, will be based on the transposition of their pre-existing law, largely as a result of the incorporation of directives that presented a lesser degree of harmonisation.

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