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.
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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.