Brussels, 2nd April 2004
Financial services: new group will give consumers and SMEs a stronger voice in EU policy making
The first meeting of a new expert forum called FIN-USE is taking place on Friday 2 April. The new forum will provide policy input to the European Commission on European financial services issues from the point of view of users of those services (in other words consumers and SMEs).
Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "There is no point in integrating financial services markets if this does not benefit those who use financial products. In practice, that means most people in Europe and all European businesses, including those too small to get their views across though Europe's legion of lobbyists. 'How will this benefit users ?' has always been the question uppermost in our minds in developing new policy proposals, but FIN-USE will put the Commission in closer touch with users' own perspective and I am convinced it will make a big contribution to future EU policy-making".
The idea of a user Forum was first proposed in the Commission's Communication on a Consumer Policy Strategy (see IP/02/657), and is line with its commitment, in the White Paper on European Governance (IP/01/1096) to open up policy making and make it more inclusive and accountable.
Members of the group have been selected by the Commission on the basis of an open and competitive procedure (see IP/03/1119). The names and nationalities of the experts are listed in annex. Initially, 12 experts have been selected, on the basis of their expertise in financial services and user background. The range of expertise is broad, with ten different nationalities represented and a variety of "user" backgrounds covered, including consumer associations, SME associations, and the academic world. There are plans to expand the group by a further three experts over the course of this year in order to take account of the accession of 10 new EU Member States.
The mandate of the FIN-USE forum is to deliver opinions on legislative initiatives affecting users of financial services and to identify key financial services issues which affect users in the Internal Market. FIN-USE will produce an annual report of its activities, including any opinions it has delivered over the course of the exercise.
The Forum will hold between four and six meetings per year in Brussels and will be assisted by the Commission, which will provide the secretariat and channel requests to the group.
The Forum will also have access to research "on demand", thanks to a framework research contract, managed by the Commission, the purpose of which will be to ensure that the opinions formulated by the Forum are backed by convincing evidence.
The FIN-USE forum complements the FIN-NET network (see IP/01/152), which aims to resolve cross-border legal disputes between consumers and financial services providers. And these are just two of a whole series of initiatives aimed both at giving end users a stronger role in the development of EU Internal Market policy and at ensuring those policies work for users when they are applied in practice. For example, the Commission's "Your Voice in Europe" web site
is one-stop shop giving the public an easy way to take part in the consultation exercises which precede all major new Commission proposals. Many of these consultations use the Commission's Interactive Policy Making (IPM) tool (see IP/01/519), which makes them user-friendly and quick to complete. And once policies are in place, the Commission provides tools to help ensure all EU citizens can take advantage of them. The Europe Direct service answers questions about any aspect of EU law and is accessible free via a single phone number (00 800 6789 10 11) from all over Europe. People needing more detailed advice on their own individual rights as EU citizens can contact the Citizens' Signpost Service
The IPM Feedback Mechanism see
gives the Commission access to feedback from citizens and SMEs on how EU law is working in practice.
And businesses who are suffering from the misapplication of EU law at national level can get fast redress through the SOLVIT network see
List of FIN-USE experts