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Strasbourg, 22 May 2012
Speaking points of Vice-President Viviane Reding on 'A New European Consumer Agenda'
"The European Consumer Agenda, adopted by the Commission today, is a big step forward for consumers. The Single Market has for too long been seen as a Single Market for businesses. And it certainly does benefit businesses and the wider economy. But today we are putting consumers in the spotlight of the Single Market.
In the present times of crisis we need confident consumers in order to help driving economic recovery. Consumers can make a solid contribution here: consumer spending represents around 56% of EU GDP. Consumer confidence is the currency of our economy.
And we have already achieved a lot over the past 50 years. In the European Union, we have solid consumer legislation in place. EU rules exist to protect consumers when they conclude contracts, whether online or in the shop around the corner – and also in cross-border situations. Now we need to bring consumer rights into the digital age.
The possibilities offered in the world of digital products are vast. However, we all risk facing difficulties when entering into a transaction online - both at national or cross-border level. More than 50% of on-line consumers suffer problems when using digital content such as music, videos, software or networking services. We need to address these problems to make the Digital Single Market work for our consumers. And to boost cross-border online shopping.
We have made first steps very recently. First example: the Consumer Rights Directive adopted last year will further strengthen the rights of on-line consumers, by banning hidden charges and costs on the Internet and the use of pre-ticked boxes throughout the EU. Thanks to this Directive, all consumers in the EU will have 14 days to withdraw from contracts concluded online.
Second example: The recently proposed Data Protection Reform will significantly strengthen the data protection rights of consumers, particularly on-line. Consumers will have to be informed if someone has hacked their credit card details. They will also have the right to data portability, meaning they can transfer their data – be it contact lists or photos – from one social network provider to another more easily. We are boosting consumer choice.
As a next step we will modernise package travel rules to take into account that more and more people book travel on the web instead of going to the travel agent around the corner. 56% of citizens organise their holidays themselves nowadays. And while 67% of consumers buying holiday packages online think they were protected, they are not. As part of the European Consumer Agenda the Commission will present its proposal in 2013 to step up consumer protection in this area.
You see: legislation to protect consumers and complete the Digital Single Market is already there or on its way. Now it's time to move up a gear and focus on implementing and enforcing the laws in the most effective and unbureaucratic way. The ball is in the Member States' court. For example they have until 2014 to implement the Consumer Rights Directive so that it produces concrete benefits for consumers all over Europe.
The Commission for its part will work with Member States to step up the use of already existing enforcement mechanisms such as the Small Claims procedure which allows for the fast and simple enforcement of cross-border claims up to 2000 EUR. As of 2013 via the e-Justice portal consumers will be able to complete the small claims forms online in any official language saving them further time and efforts.
Only consumers, who can enforce their rights effectively, will be confident enough to make full use of what the Single Market has to offer and thus contribute to re-stimulating growth within the EU. And let me add that we are not talking about peanuts here: it has been calculated that if all Single Market barriers in e-commerce were removed, the overall gain for consumers would be around EUR 204 billion – or 1.7% of EU GDP!
I am looking forward to working with the European Parliament to deliver the European Consumer Agenda for Europe's 500 million consumers. Consumer rights must not only exist on paper."