European Consumer Day: Confidence and choice needed to strengthen Single Market
European Economic and Social Committee - CES/13/22 14/03/2013
14 March 2013
European Consumer Day:
While enhanced safety standards and market surveillance are needed to protect against injury and unfair competition, increased consumer confidence and empowerment can help boost the Single Market. At the European Consumer Day on 14 March 2013, the EESC stressed once again that there can be no compromise on consumer product safety.
With consumer confidence declining rapidly amid the ongoing horsemeat scandal, this year's European Consumer Day addressed the timely issues of product safety and market surveillance. Forming a major subject of debate was the European Commission's recently adopted package to harmonise non-food product safety rules, improve traceability and enforce harsher penalties, ensuring greater protection for both consumers and businesses. Concluding that such measures are a necessary pre-requisite for the functioning of the internal market, the conference also marked the launch of a joint call for a pan-European accident and injury data system, signed by 28 EU-level organisations.
"Active consumer organisations are essential to growth, because ultimately it is the consumer who decides what and where to buy," said Staffan Nilsson, President of the EESC. "Consumers are now telling us that if we want to restore trust in the Single Market, we must also be able to guarantee the reliability of the products being sold."
Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, added: "By eliminating some of the gaps and overlaps in current legislation and facilitating enforcement, we hope to provide the right conditions for improved consumer confidence and a more effective and stringent management of supply chains."
European Consumer Day also shone a spotlight on the need for increased business confidence in the context of restrained consumer spending. Kieran Grace, Director for Consumer Affairs and Competition for the Government of Ireland, noted that new product safety rules and enhanced enforcement could help provide a level playing field for European businesses by ensuring that all competitors adhere to the same standards. Monique Goyens, Director General of the BEUC, argued in a subsequent panel session that stricter rules on product safety could help to drive business innovation, with safety costing less to society in the long-term than accidents and damages.
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