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European Commission


Brussels, 31 March 2014

Questions and Answers: Consumer Programme 2014-2020

Why do we need a Consumer Programme at EU level?

Consumer spending accounts for 56% of the European Union's GDP. More than ever, well-informed and knowledgeable consumers can drive innovation and growth by demanding value, quality and service. New needs have appeared as a consequence of the economic crisis and new ways of shopping, such as e-commerce and digital services. Consumer information also needs to keep pace with developments in the markets such as liberalisation of markets (for example in energy or telecommunications).

Furthermore, new societal challenges need to be addressed – the complexity of decision making for consumers, the need to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption, addressing the opportunities and threats of digitalisation, the increase in social exclusion and vulnerable consumers, the ageing population.

What are the main challenges to be addressed by the 2014-2020 programme?

The main challenges can be grouped under the following four headings:

  • Safety. There is a need to reinforce coordination of national enforcement authorities, and to address the risks linked to the globalisation of the production chain. There is a growing demand for safe services, also in the context of the population ageing;

  • Consumer information and education. There is a need for comparable, reliable and user-friendly information for consumers, particularly cross-border; to address the issue of poor knowledge of key consumer rights by consumers and retailers alike; for robust data on how the market is serving consumers; for increased capacity of consumer organisations especially in some Member States; to improve the educational and information tools we use;

  • Consumer rights and effective redress. There is a need to further strengthen consumer rights, in particular in cross-border situations, and to address problems faced by consumers when trying to secure redress, notably cross-border so that consumers are confident that their rights are well protected in any other Member State as well as at home;

  • Strengthening enforcement cross-border. There is a need to increase awareness about the network of European Consumer Centres among consumers and to further strengthen its effectiveness. The efficiency of the network of national enforcement authorities also needs to be strengthened.

Who will benefit from the Programme?

Direct beneficiaries will be national authorities in charge of consumer policy, safety and enforcement; the network of European Consumer Centres; EU-level consumer organisations; and national consumer organisations. Ultimately, it will be the EU consumers who will benefit thanks to better consumer organisations, advice of the European Consumers Centres and enforcement actions undertaken by the authorities that would otherwise not take place due to limited resources.

What is new compared to the previous Programme?

The new Programme will maintain the most successful elements of the old one while taking into account new societal challenges, such as the increased complexity of decision making, the need to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption, the opportunities and threats brought by the development of digitalisation, and the specific needs of vulnerable consumers.

How will the new Consumer Programme support the Union’s main Growth Strategy?

Every one of Europe's 500 million citizens is a consumer. Consumers drive Europe's economy and the Single Market. Their expenditure amounts to 56% of EU GDP and is a huge potential as a source of growth and innovation. The more consumers are able to make informed decisions, the greater the impact they can have on strengthening the Single Market and stimulating growth.

The Consumer Program is fully in line with the Europe 2020 objectives: the digital agenda - leading to increased consumer welfare; sustainable growth - moving towards sustainable consumption; social inclusion – taking into account vulnerable consumers and ageing population; smart regulation – consumer market monitoring helping to design smart and targeted regulation.

How much does it cost?

The Programme will fund actions across all 28 EU Member States and countries of the European Free Trade Association participating in the European Economic Area.

Comparing the previous programme with the programme that has just entered into force, in current prices, the Consumer Programme 2007-2013 had a budget of €156,8 million and the new Programme will have a budget of €188,8 million. This represents just 5 euros cents per citizen and year.


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