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EU consumer policy priorities include:

  • protecting your health, safety and economic well-being
  • promoting your rights to information and education
  • safeguarding your interests and encouraging self-help associations.

An EU market for consumers

In an effective, integrated EU economy based on EU-wide rules, you should be able to buy goods and services in other EU countries confident that your consumer rights will be protected if something goes wrong.

The EU’s consumer protection programme (2007-13) aims to give you a high level of legal protection and make sure the law is properly enforced .

Shopping in the market © Shutterstock

Whether you shop at the market or online, the EU protects your rights.

Looking after your interests

EU policy ensures a high level of consumer safety in many areas:

  • there are special safety requirements for toys, electrical appliances, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food, lighters, personal protective equipment, machinery and recreational craft
  • strict rules help ensure that defective products are recalled. The EU receives more than 2,000 reports of dangerous or unsafe products each year, principally relating to toys and clothes and textiles (e.g. loose cords on children's clothes, toxic chemicals in shoes and upholstery).

The EU also safeguards consumers’ wider interests in areas such as:

  • fair business practices
  • misleading and comparative advertising
  • price indicators and labelling
  • unfair contract terms
  • distance and doorstep selling
  • timeshares and package holidays
  • travellers’ rights
  • nutritional and health claims
  • novel foods
  • food ingredients and packaging.
Toy © Bilderbox

All toys have to meet EU safety standards.

Fair business practices

In response to the growth of financial services and electronic commerce, the Commission has proposed guidelines for good on-line business practices and rules for all aspects of consumer credit and non-cash payments.

Consumer interests are already factored into laws liberalising key public services like transport, electricity and gas, telecommunications and post. As a result you should enjoy universal access to high-quality services at affordable prices.

Enforcing the rules

You must be able to obtain redress if EU rules are not implemented correctly. This requires better cooperation between EU countries. Court proceedings can be costly and time-consuming, especially if they're not in your home country. To encourage out-of-court settlements, the Commission has developed no-cost or low-cost ways of settling disputes.

Unfair commercial practices such as misleading advertising and aggressive selling practices like harassment, coercion and using undue influence are now illegal throughout the EU.

Many people are wary of cross-border shopping because they are uncertain of their rights and afraid of fraud. New EU rules give you the same protection from aggressive business practices and rogue traders whether buying from the shop around the corner or from a website in another EU country.

Another way in which you can seek redress is to contact the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net). Find the centre nearest you.



Published in January 2013

This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series




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