Europe’s 500 million citizens should get the same benefits from their consumer rights if they shop at home, in another European Union country or on-line in Europe. Today the European Commission has started a consultation with consumers, consumer protection organisations and business to see how best to strengthen consumer protection across borders.
Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for Consumer Policy, said: “Improving the effective implementation of consumer rights is one of my priorities. Today all of Europe is our high street. I want to hear from consumers, shop owners, businesses how we can strengthen protection, especially across borders, without increasing red tape.”
The review will feed into the Commission’s on-going, open ended, work to improve the pan-European network of consumer protection enforcement bodies. This network has a vital role in ensuring that people across the EU enjoy equal rights no matter where the purchases are made or whom they are made from. The consultation is open until 31 January 2014 and is accessible on-line.
The specific questions in the public consultation
The consultation seeks feedback on such issues as:
- What means of investigation and intervention do national enforcement authorities need to cooperate better in tackling infringements to consumer laws concerning several countries?
- What sanctions are necessary to better deter infringing practices?
- How can the enforcers act more efficiently and provide a more robust enforcement response to combat malpractices which occur widely in the EU or which are perpetrated by the same trader operating in a number of Member States?
Given current public funding constraints, a key question in this consultation is whether -and how- a possible, more coordinated, EU-level approach could help pool resources and expertise and achieve effective joint enforcement responses to combat infringing practices that harm consumers and businesses in the EU. At a practical level the review should help develop better indicators, identify opportunities for data sharing and lead to improved methodologies for enforcement.
The EU Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Regulation1 links national consumer authorities in a pan-European enforcement network. This network addresses breaches of EU legislation involving at least two EU countries. A concrete example is a distance selling trader from a country who approaches customers in other countries by illegal, aggressive commercial practices. Since the CPC Regulation came into force, in 2007, a national authority in the EU country where the consumer interests are harmed can call on their counterpart in the Member State where the trader is located and ask for action to stop the infringement. Enforcement authorities can also alert each other to malpractices they have spotted which may spread to other countries.
Increasingly, operators competing in the same sector are adopting similar marketing techniques, and the associated malpractices are consequently spreading widely across the EU. Moreover, with new sales channels developing on-line and in mobile commerce, potential malpractice may also spread faster and affect large numbers of consumers in the EU (over 50% of consumers say that they are most likely to come across illegal commercial practices on the Internet.
For more information:
Commissioner Mimica’s Website: