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EU consumer policy strategy 2007-2013

The Communication is concerned with strengthening the retail dimension within the single market over the period 2007 to 2013, so that consumers are free to shop anywhere in the European Union (EU) with the same level of protection, taking advantage of the best prices and the best-quality products.

ACT

Communication of 13 March 2007 from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee, "EU Consumer Policy Strategy 2007-2013" [COM(2007) 99 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The consumer policy strategy (2007-2013) seeks to establish equal levels of security and protection throughout the European Union (EU), as well as a more integrated internal market, through the following objectives:

  • empowering consumers by creating a more transparent market that offers consumers real choice, for example in terms of price and quality;
  • enhancing consumers' welfare in terms of price, quality, diversity, affordability, safety, etc.;
  • protecting consumers from serious risks and threats.

PRIORITIES 2007-2013

The priorities for the 2007-2013 Community policy strategy remain the same as those set for the previous strategy: a high level of consumer protection and the enforcement of the consumer protection rules. This policy focuses on five priority areas:

  • better monitoring of consumer markets and national consumer policies;
  • better consumer protection regulation;
  • enhancing product safety through the development of market monitoring tools;
  • putting consumers at the heart of other EU policies;
  • better informed and educated consumers, for example through strengthening the role of the European Consumer Centres.

ACTIONS ENVISAGED IN THE STRATEGY

Better consumer protection regulation

The Commission intends to simplify the legislation by amending the key consumer protection directives. To this end, it has published a Green Paper on the Review of the Consumer Acquis (see below under "Related Acts").

The Commission will focus on harmonising the legislation upwards in order to establish a very high level of consumer protection.

Better enforcement and redress

Enforcement of the consumer protection legislation is one of the priorities of the consumer policy. The Commission will monitor the national enforcement regimes through surveys and other tools. It will also reinforce the monitoring of alternative disputes resolution schemes.

The Commission is counting on the Member States to transpose the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive by the set deadline (12.12.2007) and to apply the Regulation on Consumer Protection Cooperation.

Finally, the Commission announces the creation of collective redress mechanisms for breaches of the EU rules.

Better monitoring of consumer markets and national consumer policies

Market surveillance will be reinforced through the existing tools, such as the RAPEX Rapid Alert System, and through cooperation with third countries such as China and the USA, countries with which the EU has concluded cooperation agreements in the field of consumer product safety.

Putting consumers at the heart of other EU policies and regulation

The Commission wants to see the consumer put at the heart of Community policies such as health, enterprise, industry, the environment and transport (particularly air transport).
It will also make sure that services of general interest and universal service at EU level are safeguarded.

Better informed and educated consumers

The Commission will continue to co-finance initiatives designed to improve the provision of information to consumers, such as the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), as well as information campaigns in the new Member States.

Background

The new consumer policy strategy 2007-2013 seeks to amalgamate the 27 national internal markets into the largest retail market in the world. In the wake of the latest enlargement, Eurostat's forecast is for an EU of 495 million inhabitants.
The potential for e-commerce has not yet been fully exploited, either by business or individual consumers; according to the Commission, consumer expenditure still represents 58% of EU-27 GDP. The Commission also points out that not all population groups are at present able to take equal advantage of this retail market; the more vulnerable groups (children, the elderly) are penalised.

RELATED ACTS

Green Paper on the Review of the Consumer Acquis [Official Journal C 61 of 15.03.07].
The existing consumer protection legislation is based on minimum harmonisation and allows Member States to introduce more stringent legislation.
This Green Paper launches a public consultation, terminating on 15 May 2007, on the revision of the consumer acquis, proposing three alternatives as to the degree of harmonisation:

  • full harmonisation of the legislation;
  • minimum harmonisation combined with a mutual recognition clause;
  • minimum harmonisation combined with the country-of-origin principle (businesses established in other Member States would only have to comply with the rules applicable in their own country).

In addition, it proposes the revision of nine key consumer protection directives and the creation of a new consumer credit directive. It also announces the drafting of two monitoring reports, one on the financial services directive for consumers and the other on the general product safety directive.

For more information concerning this consultation, see the website of DG Health and Consumer Protection.

Council Resolution of 31 May 2007 on the Consumer Policy Strategy of the EU (2007-2013) [Official Journal C 162 of 14.7.2007].

Last updated: 06.08.2007

See also

For more information on the main consumer protection laws and their transposition by Member States, see the page on existing Community legislation relating to consumer protection ("consumer acquis") on the website of DG Health and Consumer Protection.

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