Shopping behaviour is being permanently changed by the trend towards increasing digitalisation. Austrian consumers are increasingly buying food and other everyday items such as cosmetics and toys online. However, this also increases the possibility that consumers may come across products that pose a health risk or deception when shopping online. In order to ensure a high level of consumer protection, Internet trade is subject to legal requirements just like "regular" stationary trade and is subject to risk-based official monitoring.
Products are often sold across Austrian, EU or even worldwide borders. For this reason, it was necessary to establish an efficient official control structure for targeted monitoring of the online market.
As of 1 January 2022, the Federal Office of Consumer:Internal Health(BAVG) will take over parts of the official Internet control in Austria within its area of responsibility. Pursuant to Section 6c (1) (4) of the Health and Food Safety Act (Federal Law Gazette I No. 63/2002, GESG ), the BAVG is the competent authority for the official control of all goods that are subject to the Food and Consumer Protection Act (Federal Law Gazette I No. 13/2006; LMSVG) and are offered for sale in Austria via the Internet or other distance selling channels from contracting states of the EU, EEA states or third countries.
The control activities of the BAVG concern all Internet providers of goods whose registered office is outside Austria, in the European internal market and third countries, but who offer their goods for sale to Austrian consumers. In contrast to the responsibility of the BAVG, the official control competence for the online trade of Austrian providers remains with the provincial authority (provincial governor), which has been responsible up to now.
The BAVG is responsible for the risk-based control of online trade of the following groups of goods as far as the European internal market and third countries are concerned: - foodstuffs (including food supplements); - water for human consumption; - consumer goods; and - cosmetic products.
The tasks of theBAVG concerning online trade include the following activities: - Exchange of information with authorities in other EU Member States via EU notification systems; - Regular monitoring of the market situation; - Participation in EU-coordinated priority actions; - Participation in international working groups on e-commerce; - Handling of indications and complaints from consumers.
With regard to official controls and activities concerning online trade and other distance selling, the BAVG makes use of the legally standardised support services of the Agency for Health and Food Safety(AGES). For this purpose, a competent Internet unit has been established within the AGES as a central interface for all federal offices pursuant to the GESG.