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Better enforcing consumer rights: Towards a true Single Market for Consumers

Speaking today in Rome, Commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica sets out his views as to the need for greater co-operation in enforcing consumer rights across the Single market.

Strict enforcement is key. Consumer rights that exist on paper only do not help consumers. Effective enforcement of consumer legislation is essential in turning rights on paper, into tangible benefits for consumers in practice.

Enforcement co-operation not only leads to a better functioning Single Market for consumers, but also brings benefits for enterprises through more transparency; more competition; a level-playing field and legal certainty for companies.

We must create a framework that will allow us to tackle widespread infringements which concern several or even all EU countries at the same time. In this context we must also carefully reflect on what should be the role of the Commission – first as a coordinator, but also in helping identify malpractices, and in deciding on the common EU-level mechanisms that would best address such malpractices."

Achievements of the CPC Network

The Consumer Protection Co-operation network brings together the national authorities in charge of enforcing European consumer laws and the European Commission. In case of cross-border violation of consumer rights, the network allows the authority of the Member State in which the consumer interests are harmed to call on the counterpart in the Member State where the trader is located and ask for action to stop the infringement. Enforcement authorities can also alert each other to malpractices which may spread to other countries.

More than 1,400 mutual assistance requests have been exchanged within the network since 2007. The regular co-ordinated surveillance of on-line markets – often referred to as “sweeps” – has led to the correction of some 2,000 non-compliant websites over this same period. The sweeps have increased awareness about consumer legislation among e-traders and consumers in many sectors: air transport, hotel booking, consumer credit, events ticketing, electronic goods or digital content products.

Since last year, enforcement authorities have started to cooperate also on common concerns affecting consumers in several Member States. The first action of this kind was taken in the field of “in app” purchases, and in particular games – notably those aimed at children. Enforcement authorities across the EU agreed on a common understanding of how to apply the relevant consumer rules in this area and asked industry to correct malpractices within a clear timeframe so as to ensure proper consumer protection for apps customers. This process is nearing completion and the results are expected shortly.

…and challenges for the future

The recent public consultation on the results of the network underlined the need to find effective solutions to tackle widespread infringements of consumer rights in the EU. Stakeholders in the public consultation called for a stronger coordination and a uniform EU-wide approach that would offer better outcomes for consumers and simplify compliance and reduce costs for business. Pooling administrative efforts at the EU level would permit significant cost and resource savings for governments.

In his speech the Commissioner further reflected on how to improve the mutual cooperation mechanism among national authorities, the market monitoring and alert mechanism to detect infringements faster and reduce overall consumer detriment.

He also committed to taking the preparatory work forward so that the next Commission can swiftly make an informed decision about how to strengthen the enforcement of consumer legislation in the EU and meet the challenges of the digital economy.

For more information:

Report on the functioning of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation adopted on 1 July 2014

Commissioner Mimica's website

Follow Commissioner Mimica on Twitter: @MimicaEU

Follow the Consumer Policy account on Twitter: @eu_cons

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