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European Commission - Press release

A new European Consumer Agenda – Boosting confidence and growth by putting consumers at the heart of the Single Market

Brussels, 22 May 2012 – Consumer expenditure, amounting to 56% of EU GDP, reflects the enormous power of the consumer to drive forward the European economy. Only empowered and confident consumers can fully exploit the potential of the Single Market and enhance innovation and growth. This is why the European Commission's strategic vision for EU consumer policy for the years to come – adopted today - aims to maximise consumer participation and trust in the market. Built around four main objectives the European Consumer Agenda aims to increase confidence by: reinforcing consumer safety; enhancing knowledge; stepping up enforcement and securing redress; aligning consumer rights and policies to changes in society and in the economy. It also presents a number of key actions to be implemented between now and 2014.

"Growth in the European Union needs both competitive supply and strong demand. Consumers therefore must be as much centre stage of EU policies as businesses. We need confident consumers to drive forward the European economy", said Viviane Reding, Commission Vice-President and the EU's Justice Commissioner. "We want to stimulate cross-border shopping online, and this is why the EU and its Member States need to bring consumer rights into the digital age. We have taken first steps with the Consumer Rights Directive and with the proposal for modernised data protection rules to boost consumer confidence online. As a next step, the Commission plans to modernise the EU's package travel rules of 1990 to take into account that more and more people now book their holidays on the web. However, it takes more than new laws to make the digital single market work for consumers. Member States need to step up the swift and non-bureaucratic implementation of EU rules so that consumer rights become a concrete reality for our 500 million consumers. "

"In the current economic context a strong consumer policy is a necessity. Empowering Europe's 500 million consumers will be a key contribution to growth in the European economy," said Health and Consumer policy Commissioner John Dalli. "The strategy adopted today aims to empower consumers and build their confidence by giving them the tools to participate actively in the market, to make it work for them, to exercise their power of choice and to have their rights properly enforced. We will do so for instance by revising the EU framework for ensuring that products and food on the Single Market are safe, by stepping up enforcement of EU consumer laws in close cooperation with national authorities, by providing more support to consumers shopping cross-border through the European Consumer Centres, and by ensuring that consumer interests are more systematically integrated into EU policies of key economic importance for households."

European consumers enjoy some of the strongest consumer rights and protection in the world whether protecting them from unsafe products, misleading advertising, unpredictable roaming costs or dubious practices online, or supporting them when things go wrong. The proposals for Alternative Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution (ADR/ODR) currently on the table will enable them to solve problems quickly, easily and at low cost. Another example is the European Small Claims Procedure which simplifies, speeds up and reduces the cost of litigation in cross-border cases for claims up to 2000. As of 2013 via the e-Justice portal consumers will be able to complete the small claims forms online in any official language simplifying saving them further time and efforts.

While the EU has a substantial corpus of consumer law and the consumer dimension is an important part of many EU policies, a comprehensive framework is needed which also addresses imminent challenges such as those linked to the digitalisation of daily life, the desire to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption, and the specific needs of vulnerable consumers.

Four main objectives

The Consumer Agenda presents measures designed to achieve the objectives of the EU's growth strategy, Europe 2020. It builds on and complements other initiatives such as the EU Citizenship Report (see IP/10/1390 and MEMO/10/525), the Single Market Act, the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200) and the Resources Efficiency Roadmap (see IP/11/1046). To this end, it is built around four main objectives designed to increase consumer confidence.

  • Reinforcing consumer safety: for goods, services and food, strengthening the regulatory framework and making market surveillance more efficient.

  • Enhancing knowledge: to cope with the increasing complexity of markets, where consumers need the right tools and information to understand everything from the real cost of consumer credit to finding the right place to complain. This is important for both consumers and traders, and the role of consumer organisations is key.

  • Improving enforcement and securing redress, without which rights cannot exist in practice. This is all the more relevant given that the detriment suffered by European consumers incurred from problems causing complaint is estimated at about 0.4 % of EU GDP.1 The role of consumer enforcement networks2 is central.

  • Aligning policy to societal change and making it relevant to daily life: to adapt consumer law to the digital age and tackle problems consumers face online; to factor in the needs of vulnerable consumers; to make sustainable choices easy

Five key sectors

The Agenda supports consumer interests in key sectors.3

  • Food: to ensure sustainability and safety.

  • Energy: so that consumers can get the best value for money in the liberalised market and better manage their energy consumption.

  • Financial: to protect consumers' financial interests and give them the tools to manage their finances.

  • Transport: to adapt legislation to modern patterns of travel and to support sustainable mobility.

  • Digital: with a view to tackling problems faced by consumers and ensuring their protection online.

For more information:

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/strategy/index_en.htm#agenda

Also: The Consumer Policy Report published with the Consumer Agenda

DG Justice Consumer and Marketing Law website:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/consumer-marketing/index_en.htm

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Contacts :

Frédéric Vincent (+32 2 298 71 66)

Aikaterini Apostola (+32 2 298 76 24)

Mina Andreeva (+32 2 299 13 82

Natasha Bertaud (+32 2 2967 456

1 :

Consumer Empowerment survey; Eurobarometer No 342; 2010..

2 :

European Consumer Centres and CPC

3 :

These sectors were identified as some of the most problematic for consumers, according to the Consumer Markets Scoreboard.


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