On December 12th, 2019, amendments to the Consumer Protection Act (the “CPA”) were adopted at first reading. The amendments aim at harmonization of the national legislation with Regulation (EU) 2017/2394 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws and Regulation (EU) 2017/1128 on cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market (the “two regulations”).
The new legal framework extends the substantive scope of the two regulations and provides for an obligation for member states to determine the competent authorities responsible for the implementation of the legislation covered by the regulation and a single liaison office to coordinate the activities of the competent authorities.
The main changes provided for by the draft act are in the following guidelines:
- Explicit definition of the set of binging minimum powers of the competent authorities of the EU member states. A distinction is made between powers of inquiry and powers of law enforcement. There are provisions regarding the exercise of the binding minimum powers of the competent authorities in member states;
- An electronic system is created, containing database for electronic communication and a mechanism for mutual assistance and coordinated investigations between the competent member states’ authorities;
- Consumer associations are given the opportunity to submit proposals and alerts to the competent control authorities for alleged breaches of the law;
- Eleven competent authorities in the Republic of Bulgaria are explicitly designated for the implementation of the two regulations: the Consumer Protection Commission (the “CPC”), the Bulgarian Drug Agency, the Communications Regulation Commission, the Directorate General “Civil Aviation Administration”, the Competition Protection Commission, the “Railway Administration” Executive Agency, the Electronic Media Council, the Executive Agency “Maritime Administration”, Executive Agency “Automobile Administration”, the Bulgarian National Bank and the Ministry of Tourism. These authorities will be enabled to use as evidence any information duly collected and provided by a competent member state authority;
- The CPC is designated as a single liaison office within the meaning of Regulation (EU) 2017/2394. It is obliged to coordinate the activities of the competent authorities for the implementation of consumer protection legislation. The CPC will also be a controlling authority for the implementation of the measures under Regulation (EU) 2017/1128 on cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market. AS well as that, the CPC is entitled to impose different sanctions in case of non-compliance;
- In order to reduce the administrative burden for consumers, the requirement to provide paper documents submitted with the Commercial Register and the Register for Non-Profit Legal Entities is no longer applicable. This eliminates the existing discrepancy between the CPA and the Commercial Register and the Register of Non-Profit Legal Entities Act;
- The chapter on Administrative Penal Provisions details the amounts of the fines and introduces new types of fines for non-compliance with both regulations.
The amendments proposed will contribute to the improvement of the cooperation within EU member states supervisory authorities’ work. The changes are supposed to improve the enforcement of consumer protection legislation and they ought to contribute to a higher level of consumer protection.