REPORT on the Consumer Markets Scoreboard
14.10.2008 - (2008/2057(INI))
Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection
Rapporteur: Anna Hedh
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
on the Consumer Markets Scoreboard
The European Parliament,
– having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 29 January 2008 entitled "Monitoring consumer outcomes in the single market: the Consumer Markets Scoreboard" (COM(2008)0031),
– having regard to the Internal Market Scoreboard no 16 bis of 14 February 2008 (SEC(2008)0076),
– having regard to its resolution of 6 September 2007 on the Green Paper on the Review of the Consumer Acquis,
– having regard to its resolution of 20 May 2008 on EU consumer policy strategy 2007-2013,
– having regard to its resolution of 23 September 2008 on the Internal Market Scoreboard,
– having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 20 November 2007 entitled "A single market for 21st century Europe" (COM(2007)0724),
– having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 20 November 2007 entitled "Services of general interest, including social services of general interest: a new European commitment" (COM(2007)0725), accompanying the Communication on a single market for 21st century Europe,
– having regard to the Commission Staff Working Document entitled "Implementing the new methodology for product market and sector monitoring: Results of a first sector screening" (SEC(2007)1517), accompanying the Communication on a single market for 21st century Europe,
– having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,
– having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A6-0392/2008),
A. whereas it welcomes the publication of the Consumer Markets Scoreboard ("the Scoreboard"), which aims at making the Internal Market more responsive to the expectations and concerns of citizens,
B. whereas competitive and effectively functioning consumer markets are crucial to ensure that citizens have confidence in the Internal Market,
C. whereas the Scoreboard needs to be complemented by other means of monitoring,
D. whereas the indicators in the Scoreboard are meant to help to identify sectors to be studied in further detail,
E. whereas the Scoreboard should stimulate debate on consumer policy issues,
F. whereas studies and analyses from national consumer and competition authorities may be relevant for the further development of the Scoreboard,
1. Stresses the importance of enabling citizens to benefit fully from the benefits of the Internal Market, and sees the Scoreboard as an important tool to this end;
2. Welcomes the five main indicators in the Scoreboard in relation to complaints, price levels, satisfaction, switching and safety;
3. Underlines that the Scoreboard is in its infancy and needs to be further developed with more complete data, more precise statistics and further analyses based on the various indicators;
4. Stresses that when a satisfactory level of development of the five basic indicators of the Scoreboard is reached, new indicators should be drawn up in order to make the Internal Market more responsive to the expectations and concerns of citizens;
5. Calls on the Commission to ensure adequate financing and staffing for the purposes referred to in paragraphs 3 and 4;
6. Encourages the Commission to ensure a coherent and coordinated approach within its services in order to avoid duplication of work and contradictory outcomes of data analysis;
7. Calls on the Commission to include an easily comprehensible summary as well as clear conclusions and recommendations in future Scoreboards, translated into all official languages of the European Union;
Developing the indicators
8. Takes the view that the total number of indicators should be limited to ensure a focused Scoreboard;
9. Takes the view that an indicator related to complaints is essential to understand consumer satisfaction; calls on the Commission and the Member States to work towards a harmonisation of the complaint classification systems used bythe competent authorities and relevant consumer assistance services in the Member States and at Community level and to establish an EU-wide database of consumer complaints; calls on Member States to raise consumer awareness of complaints systems and to improve the handling of complaints in order to enable economic operators to offer more and better services;
10. Calls on the Commission to develop indicators relating to cross-border judicial proceedings and compensation for damage suffered by consumers, through judicial and extrajudicial means of redress, as well as through existing national redress mechanisms;
11. Takes the view that indicators relating to consumer literacy, skills and age (for example level of education, computer literacy and foreign language skills) could be included in the Scoreboard; underlines, however, the importance of striking a balance between indicators based on 'soft' data stemming from consumer surveys and 'hard' data based on other sources;
12. Acknowledges that developing precise and adequate price indicators is a very complex issue as differences in price levels may have a number of causes and their existence is as such not proof of market failure; however, holds the view that the Scoreboard should include price indicators, as prices are of key concern to consumers and price indicators are important to stimulate debate and ensure media awareness concerning shortcomings in the functioning of markets; calls on the Commission to take into account the macroeconomic climate as well as consumers' purchasing power and pre-tax prices in the Member States;
13. Welcomes efforts to develop more sophisticated price indicators, but also calls for the use of other indicators relating to the effective functioning of markets before making specific policy recommendations;
14. Recalls that ethical and environmental concerns are of increasing importance for consumers; calls on the Commission to look into the possibility of measuring the availability of information relating to such concerns in different markets;
Improving the information base
15. Underlines the importance of close cooperation between the statistical offices of the Member States, Eurostat and other Commission services in ensuring the quality and completeness of figures; calls on the Member States to take steps to facilitate such cooperation;
16. Recalls that national consumer and competition authorities often undertake case studies or are in possession of other evidence concerning the functioning of different markets, hence calls on the Commission to draw on available national information and to consult actively with national experts when further developing the Scoreboard;
17. Encourages Member States to explore the merits of establishing a special Consumer Ombudsman; notes that a number of Member States have consumer ombudsmen in several sectors who help consumers to deal with economic operators;
18. Calls on the Commission, in cooperation with the Member States, to ensure that European consumer information centres are given greater resources and are properly staffed in order both efficiently to solve the increasing number of consumer cross-border complaints and to shorten handling times for such complaints;
19. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to raise awareness of the Scoreboard, inter alia by ensuring that it is easily accessible and visible on relevant websites, and to increase efforts to promote the Scoreboard to the media, public authorities and consumer organisations;
Relationship with the Internal Market Scoreboard
20. Holds the view that the Internal Market Scoreboard and the Consumer Markets Scoreboard both serve to promote an improved Internal Market to the benefit of citizens and consumers;
21. Welcomes the Commission's intention to ensure a better communicated Internal Market, and holds the view that the two Scoreboards are important steps in that direction;
22. Emphasises that while the two Scoreboards are interlinked and that it is important to promote their coherent development, they have different target audiences and hence should be kept separate, with different sets of indicators;
23. Holds the view that a review of the indicators used as well as the relationship between the two Scoreboards should be carried out on a regular basis in order to adapt them to developments in the Internal Market;
24. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission and to the governments and parliaments of the Member States.
The internal market is often referred to as the core of European integration, but to many consumers it is no more than a vague expression. Regardless of how well we know its meaning, rules and regulations, each and every one of us is a consumer and we are all affected by the functioning of the internal market. Hence, the trust of the European consumers is a prerequisite for the internal market to work effectively and prosper.
It is the view of your rapporteur that in order to earn this trust, other measures are needed than to only strengthen consumer rights in legislation. We also have to ensure that the markets are functioning in the best possible way and that consumers are offered products and services at a price and quality level which meets their expectations. This does not necessarily mean more or stricter legislation. Sometimes information, education or self regulation could be a more appropriate and effective approach. Regardless of how the problems are solved the aim should always be to ensure that consumer’s rights are secured and that consumers have the right information, education and conditions to make good and well-founded choices. This is important not only for the good of the consumers but also because an effective and a well functioning market will reward innovation and stimulate competition and economical growth.
General remarks on the Scoreboard
Following a request from the Committee on the on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection in the European Parliament, the European Commission has tabled a first Consumer Markets Scoreboard as a tool to identify and analyze problems from a consumers point of view. Your rapporteur welcomes this scoreboard and believes it will prove to be an important tool for the future development of consumer policy.
The single market includes close to 500 million consumers and a vast variety of goods and services. While it is impossible to monitor all aspects of the Internal Market in detail, it is important to use analytical resources where they are most needed. The use of indicators is valuable to identify problems and pinpoint areas where further studies are called for. The indicators used are in the scoreboard relates to complaints, price levels, satisfaction, switching and safety. Your rapporteur believes that while there is a need to over time further develop and improve some of the indicators as well as maybe also including some new ones, these five main indicators are relevant and useful.
When monitoring such complex systems with an endless set of variables it is important to remember that screening is just a way to identify the right areas for further studies and that deviation in a single, or even several indicators, not necessarily prove market failure.
Most indicators can in one way or the other be considered flawed but in the context described they will most likely provide the accuracy needed to properly allocate analytical resources.
The use of price level indicators has been questioned by some stakeholders due to the fact that prices are influenced by so many factors. However, prices are important for consumers and price indicators are often easy to communicate. Moreover, while most market failures, directly or indirectly, will have an effect on the consumer price the price level indicator combined with other indicators related to the effective functioning of the market will most likely provide valid results. This is why your rapporteur believes price indicators must to be included in the scoreboard and that difference in price levels may sometimes indicate a need for further analysis.
Your rapporteur underlines the importance of raising awareness about the Scoreboard. To this end it is important that the Scoreboard written in an easily accessible language. Moreover, the scoreboard should be visible on relevant websites and at the same time efforts to promote the scoreboard to media should be stepped-up.
By identifying problem areas the Consumer Markets Scoreboard can be a versatile and flexible instrument that will make the public, the market operators and the institutions aware of weaknesses that has to be attended to. By doing this we do not only, step by step, improve the situation for consumers all over Europe, but also make the same consumers aware of their rights in the internal market. By highlighting - and solving - the problems European policy makers can show that we are dedicated in our effort to empowering consumers and demonstrate not only what the internal market is but hopefully also envisage what it can become.
The Consumer Markets Scoreboard and the Internal Market Scoreboard
The Commission has since 1997 used the Internal Market Scoreboard to monitor and highlight the member states implementation of internal market legislation The internal market scoreboard is an important tool for encouraging the member states in taking their part in the common and continuous effort to develop the single market. However, the intention of the Internal Market Scoreboard has never been to communicate the Internal Market to the consumer. Hence, it is not likely to build trust from the ordinary consumer. Accordingly, the two scoreboards complement each other in the effort to improve the internal market, but it is the view of your rapporteur that they should be kept separate due to the different approaches and addressees.
RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE
Result of final vote
Members present for the final vote
Cristian Silviu Buşoi, Charlotte Cederschiöld, Gabriela Creţu, Mia De Vits, Janelly Fourtou, Evelyne Gebhardt, Hélène Goudin, Małgorzata Handzlik, Christopher Heaton-Harris, Anna Hedh, Iliana Malinova Iotova, Kurt Lechner, Toine Manders, Catiuscia Marini, Arlene McCarthy, Nickolay Mladenov, Catherine Neris, Zita Pleštinská, Karin Riis-Jørgensen, Zuzana Roithová, Heide Rühle, Leopold Józef Rutowicz, Christel Schaldemose, Andreas Schwab, Marianne Thyssen, Jacques Toubon, Barbara Weiler, Marian Zlotea
Substitute(s) present for the final vote
Emmanouil Angelakas, Wolfgang Bulfon, Colm Burke, Giovanna Corda, Othmar Karas, José Ribeiro e Castro, Olle Schmidt