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Brussels, 13 March 2007

Kuneva launches new Consumer Strategy and backs plans for collective redress

Commissioner Meglena Kuneva today set out more than 20 legislative and non legislative initiatives to boost the retail side of the Single Market by 2013. This will move forwards in the coming months with: a comprehensive overhaul of cross border shopping rights, an in-depth assessment of how best to strengthen consumer collective redress; new proposals to strengthen the Timeshare Directive; and a pledge to open the market for better cross border deals for credit (Consumer Credit Directive). The new Consumer Strategy 2007-2013 aims to boost confidence in the Single Market so that consumers can shop freely across borders - travelling or online – to get the best price, the best quality and for the product best suited to their needs.

"With this Strategy we aim to awake a sleeping giant, the retail side of the Single Market. The new tools are there for a dramatic evolution in the cross border market, but consumer behaviour is lagging behind. I want to build trust in the market and give people more choice and value for money. I want a citizen in Birmingham to feel as comfortable shopping for a digital camera from a website in Berlin or Budapest as they would in their high street."

Consumer spending represents 58% of EU GDP. Statistics show that businesses and consumers are still not using the potential offered by the internal market, particularly the new possibilities in E-shopping. The Internal Market could be the largest retail market in the world. It remains fragmented to 27 national mini-markets, depriving consumers of lower prices, better choice, and the European economy from an additional source of growth.

Five pillars of the Strategy

1. Modern cross border shopping rights

There will be an overhaul and streamlining of the current consumer legislative framework that is incomplete, outdated and increasingly ill adapted to the digital economy revolution in products, services and retail channels. The priority will be the review of 8 core consumer Directives, from consumer guarantees to delivery, launched with the Green Paper on the Review of Consumer Acquis (see IP/07/253). Other priority areas for action include:

- the Timeshare Directive

- a new Directive on Consumer Credit

- a Report on the operation of Distance Marketing of Consumer Financial Services

- a Report on the operation the General Product Safety Directive

2. Strong systems for redress and enforcement

Consumers will not enjoy the benefits of the Single Market unless there are strong and effective systems in place to resolve problems with goods and services when things go wrong. The Commission will take action to:

- reinforce monitoring of Alternative Disputes Resolution (ADR) schemes

- consider action on collective redress mechanisms for consumers for infringements of consumer protection rules and breaches of the EC anti-trust rules.

- report on the Injunctions Directive (2007 followed by public consultation on its impact)

- implement the new Consumer Protection Co-operation (CPC) Regulation to tackle cross border scams and breaches of consumer protection rules (see IP/07/253).

3. Safe Markets

Safe products are the number one consumer concern, Priority areas for action include:

- reinforcing the EU's market surveillance and Rapid Alert System ('RAPEX') for notification of dangerous products

- co-operation with US and Chinese authorities will be strengthened

- collection of data on product and service related accidents and injuries will be a priority, as well as data collection and analysis of chemical risks.

4. Making consumer outcomes the focus of EU policies

The aim is to make consumer outcomes the guiding standard for policy decisions in the next generation, Single Market 2.

- Integration of consumer interests into the policy making process in key policy areas - health, enterprise and industry, environment and transport is a major priority. In particular,

- the Commission's White paper on Mortgage Credit

- Services of general interest (SGI): The Commission will ensure that, where appropriate, universal service at EU and Member State level is safeguarded..

- Indicators and statistics will be developed in areas including: the level of cross-border business-to-consumer (B2C) trade; price convergence/divergence, legal compliance, confidence, consumer complaints, prices, access and consumer satisfaction.

5. Information

Consumers need better information, more transparent markets and political empowerment Priority actions will include:

- co-financing and co-ordinating the work of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which advises citizens on their rights as consumers and provides easy access to redress in cross border cases

- information campaigns in new Member States, the development of post-graduate education courses in consumer issues, the publication of the annual School diary, the development of adult education modules.

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