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The European Parliament on Sept. 21 approved a measure that lets customers sue operators of foreign e-commerce sites in the courts of the consumers’ home countries. The vote overturned the stance of the parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, which would have restricted lawsuits to the member state where the company has its registered office. But consumer-rights advocates called that an undue burden. “In my view, if we want to make European business really competitive, it’s got to be more responsive to consumer complaints,” said Diana Wallis, the U.K. member of the European Parliament who introduced the amendment adopted last Thursday. “Up until now within the European community, we’ve always had a high level of consumer protection,” Wallis continued. She added that in mail-order cases, for example, consumers could sue in their home country. In a bow to industry, though, the Parliament limited the right to sue to cases involving “active” Internet sites, those marketing directly to the customer’s home country. Representatives of industry had argued that broader rights to sue would discourage Europe-wide online trade. “I think the fears have been vastly overexaggerated,” Wallis said. “The research that’s available tends to indicate that the number of cases that are consumer-to-business across member state boundaries is tiny. We’re talking about maybe a handful of cases, if that,” Wallis said. She added that the goal is to settle as many consumer complaints out of court as possible, and that the European Commission is looking into options for online dispute resolution. The measure, approved by a vote of 298 to 11, with 204 abstentions, codifies and updates the 1968 Brussels Convention on the recognition and enforcement of judgments. Rick Perera writes for the IDG News Service. Related articles from The Industry Standard: TheBigHub Adds Subpoena to Injury SEC Tells Teen Trader to Pay Up Scoot.com takeover rumours “unfounded” Copyright (c)2000 The Industry Standard

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