WRITTEN QUESTION E-1669/08
by Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE)
to the Commission
Subject: Use of the term 'ppm' in the computer imaging industry
A concern has been raised with me by a constituent regarding the use of the term 'ppm' (pages per minute) within the computer imaging industry for printer specifications. I am told that the use of the term 'ppm' used to market the product can often be misleading, as it often refers to the poorest quality of printing as opposed to a standard quality, which the consumer would expect. Moreover, 'ppm' does not accurately reflect the true number of pages that may be produced per minute, due to several other variables, such as the text used in the document and use of graphics, lines or other objects. This I am told results in the consumer purchasing a product under false pretences.
Can the Commission state what its view is on this? Are there any European regulations that prohibit companies from misinforming consumers in this way, especially in terms of the use of the term, the advertising of products, and descriptions of products' ability?
Answer given by Ms Kuneva on behalf of the Commission
There is EU legislation which protects consumers from the misleading use of technical terms relating to the performance of a product.
If a trader makes misleading claims concerning the number of ‘pages per minute’ which a printer should be capable of delivering, this may constitute an unfair commercial practice under Directive 2005/29/EC(1) on Unfair Commercial Practices (‘UCP’), which was adopted on 11 May 2005. UCP requires that traders operate according to the requirements of professional diligence and that they do not provide the consumer with false, untruthful or incomplete information on a wide range of elements including but not limited to the main characteristics of the product, its fitness for purpose, its specifications and the results to be expected from its use.
Moreover, the directive requires that traders provide such information in a clear, intelligible and timely manner: presenting factually correct information in a deceiving manner may also constitute a violation of UCP.
The new laws transposing the directive had to be applicable by December 2007 in the Member States. Despite the fact that the United Kingdom has not transposed the directive yet, some legislation should exist at a national level under the previous Misleading Advertising Directive. Under the latter directive, misleading statements regarding the specifications of a product and/or its performance may have constituted a misleading practice, based on the specific facts and circumstances of a concrete case.
However, it remains the exclusive competence of national authorities and courts to apply the national laws implementing EC law, including the Misleading Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
The Commission suggests that the Honourable Member's constituent brings the matter to the attention of the competent enforcement authorities in the United Kingdom(2).
(1) Directive 2005/29/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005 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 Parliament and of the Council and Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of the Parliament and of the Council (‘Unfair Commercial Practices Directive’), OJ L 149, 11.6.2005.
(2) The contact details of a consumer association in the United Kingdom which may be able to give further advice on this matter: Which?, Castlemead, Gascoyne Way, SG14 1LH Hertford, United Kingdom, tel: (44-1992) 82 28 00, fax: (44‑20) 77 70 74 85, email: ku.oc.hcihw|hcihw#ku.oc.hcihw|hcihw, website: http://www.which.co.uk