Why You Should Be Concerned About the EU’s New CPC Law
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Back in November 2017, the European Union passed the “Consumer Protection Cooperation” (CPC) regulation.

In theory, the regulation protects consumers against commerce sites that infringe on European consumer law. However, it contained a hidden clause which has proved to be highly controversial.

Keep reading to find out more.

What Makes CPC So Controversial?

The Consumer Protection Cooperation is a piece of regulation, not a directive. As such, it will be law across all EU countries.

The regulation’s core goal is to force ISPs to help countries identify and prosecute rogue traders, conduct mystery shopping investigations, and “explicit display of a warning to consumers.”

The intentions sound noble, but it’s Article 9(4) which has activists up in arms. The Article governs how the new law will be enforced. Here’s a snippet of what it says:

“[Countries have] the power to order a hosting service provider to remove, disable, or restrict access to an online interface. Or where appropriate, the power to order domain registries or registrars to delete a fully qualified domain name and to allow the competent authority concerned to register it, including by requesting a third party or other public authority to implement such measures.”

To translate the legal jargon, it means all EU countries must now create the necessary infrastructure to block websites, even in places where the framework for such actions was not previously available.

The rules will be enforced by all ISPs operating within a country’s borders, and they will have to immediately implement the block upon receiving a government’s request.

How Countries Can Block Websites

The CPC regulation gives countries’ national consumer protection agencies four broad new powers. They are:

  1. The legal authority to obtain data on domain owners from domain registrars.
  2. The ability to block websites that encroach on people’s consumer rights across the entire EU
  3. Seize domains names that encroach on people’s consumer rights.
  4. Freeze bank assets and bank details of rogue traders.

The process for blocking sites is worryingly simple. No court order—or even legal investigation—is required. The decision is purely at the discretion of the consumer agencies.

Why Is Article 9(4) Concerning?

Let’s be very clear: the article is only supposed to be used to block sites that are breaking consumer protection laws.

However, the most concerning part is the infrastructure that’s now in place. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see how authorities could easily abuse the law in the future.

To give a very recent example, you need to look no further than October 2017’s independence referendum in Catalonia, Spain.

During the controversial vote, the Spanish courts ordered ISPs to block all websites about the ballot that had the .cat top-level domain name for the region, as well as making them “monitor” more than 120,000 additional sites.

We’ve seen similar tales emerge out of Russia Russia's VPN Ban: What Is It and What Does It Mean for You? Russia's VPN Ban: What Is It and What Does It Mean for You? Millions of people around the world use VPNs to protect their privacy while online. But some states are moving to block VPNs, banning their usage. The latest is Russia -- can you use a VPN... Read More , Turkey, Ukraine, Hungary, and more. It’s fair to say governments have a track record for this sort of thing.

And don’t be fooled by thinking such a thing could never happen where you live. Just check out the list of sites currently blocked in the United Kingdom alone. Some were accidental; some were very much intentional.

How the CPC Regulation Affects Piracy and Torrents

We know what you’re thinking: “I live in North America, why should I care?” Well, in a word: torrents.

It’s very easy to see how the vaguely-worded new law is almost a ready-made solution to the ongoing issues around piracy and copyright theft How Your Amazon Fire TV Stick and Kodi Could Cause Legal Issues How Your Amazon Fire TV Stick and Kodi Could Cause Legal Issues Kodi and the Amazon Fire TV Stick are insanely popular. However, although users are attracted to both Kodi and the Amazon Fire TV Stick's flexibility, they could easily land themselves in legal hot water. Read More .

Organizations with powerful lobbying arms such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have long wanted new laws that allow them to target torrent portals.

In the context of media, one could view movie studios and record labels as offering legitimate “products,” while The Pirate Bay and its alternatives Top 6 Free Torrent Alternatives for The Pirate Bay Top 6 Free Torrent Alternatives for The Pirate Bay The Pirate Bay shut shop. But there are lots of alternatives out there. You just need to know where to look. Here are the top six torrent sites other than The Pirate Bay. Read More offer “scam” or “fake” versions.

Of course, we don’t condone piracy. However, the inevitable widespread blocking of torrent portals will have a significant impact on legitimate torrent sites that focus on offering legal freeware and open-source software.

Ultimately, it will hurt torrents as a form of sharing technology, and that’s a bad thing. If this worries you, note that there are ways to avoid torrent blocking 5 Ways to Bypass Torrent Connection Blocking 5 Ways to Bypass Torrent Connection Blocking Here are some effective ways you can bypass torrent connection blocking by ISPs and download legitimate torrents. Read More .

CPC Erodes Consumer Protections

Earlier in the article, you will recall that we said the European Union’s primary (or at least, public) motivation for the new regulation was to strengthen consumers’ protections across the continent.

In practice, the new law has been roundly criticized for having the exact opposite effect. Many experts claim the CPC instead weakens those very same protections.

But how?

To fully explain, we need to go back to 2016 when work on the project started. At the time, the intentions appeared to be honest.

However, the machinations of the EU law-making process meant the first draft of the new regulation was subjected to a slew of amendments, most of which occurred in the spring of 2017.

By the time the proposal emerged out the other side, law-makers had watered it down significantly. The changes negatively impacted consumers.

For example, consumer protection agencies can no longer force mandatory compensation from website traders who’ve broken the rules. Instead, it’s now voluntary and left up to each individual trader to resolve with the wronged party.

Similarly, the agencies cannot legally force illegal traders to give up their profits earned from breaking the rules.

When Does CPC Come Into Force?

The European Parliament passed the regulation by 592 votes to 80. It was later ratified by the European Commission and is set to become law in late 2019.

What Can You Do About CPC?

As is so often the way, the best way to circumnavigate government blocks is to use a VPN effectively 7 Tips on How to Use a VPN Like a Boss 7 Tips on How to Use a VPN Like a Boss If you're not using a VPN, you should be. And if you know how to use a VPN, chances are you're doing it wrong. Make the most of your VPN with these tips. Read More . You can use it to give yourself an IP address outside the EU and thus continue to access the sites. We recommend either ExpressVPN or CyberGhost.

Is CPC as Bad as It Sounds?

Of course, it’s to be hoped that the democratic structure in most Europe countries is strong enough to resist an over-zealous government using the law for its own means, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a frightening reminder of how quickly your internet freedoms can be eroded.

What seems like an innocent regulation can quickly become a tool for harm. People around the world will have to hope that’s not what the EU regulations morph into.

Remember, you can always try to bypass blocked sites 5 Methods to Bypass Blocked Sites 5 Methods to Bypass Blocked Sites You're at work or school, but you want to check on Facebook, or watch something on YouTube. It's blocked - so how do you get around this and ruin your productivity? Read More , but you have no guarantees of success.

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  1. Someone Scary
    May 16, 2018 at 9:16 am

    You can ask Spanish people, are they happy, that because of liberty in Internet, they were very close to civil war. Sometimes government knows better.

  2. Sapphire Nemerov
    May 15, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    Hey! I have an issue regarding tye text msg pop up... I have installed two apps about 1 week ago and those apps were showing me sms pop ups i tried to change the settings so that tehy don't show me the text message pop ups but i couldn't find them... So! I uninstalled those apps but still the whenever i get a text it shows the pop ups but there no name of the app on the pop up now i don't know what to do these are really a headache! Can u help me out?

  3. dragonmouth
    May 15, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    " it’s to be hoped that the democratic structure in most Europe countries"
    Do you still subscribe to the quaint notion that we live in democratic countries? Our countries are as "democratic" as all those communist countries that called themselves "People's Democratic Republics". Without straining too hard, one can see that for decades now, our so-called "democratic" governments have been a combination of oligarchy and plutocracy.

    Just consider:
    For the most part, it is the same people who get elected time after time after time.
    IF a new individual does manage to get elected, (s)he is quickly indoctrinated into how the things are done.
    Money talks and politicians listen.
    "We, the people" have no voice because, even though we are the majority, we cannot outspend the rich.
    Let's not forget the Golden Rule - He who has the gold, makes the rules.
    The rich control all the media and methods of communication. They dictate what we see, hear and read.