Empowering the consumers for the green transition

In “A European Green Deal”

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On 30 March 2022, the Commission submitted a proposal for a directive on empowering consumers for the green transition, as part of a circular economy package I that also included a proposal for a regulation on ecodesign requirements for sustainable products, a proposal for a revised construction product regulation and an EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles (see separate files).

The proposal on empowering consumers had been first announced in the 2020 Commission work programme under its first priority - the European Green Deal, with details specified in the 2020 New Circular Economy Action Plan. Originally planned for the last quarter of 2020, the proposal was postponed until the second quarter of 2021, and then again until March 2022.

Before the proposal was put on the table, Parliament in its resolution 25 November 2020 on a more sustainable single market for business and consumers, called on the Commission to consider a number of measures, such as improving information for consumers on the durability and reparability of products, possibly through voluntary labelling; protecting consumers from greenwashing and premature obsolescence; facilitating repairs; assessing how to bring the legal guarantee more into line with the estimated lifetime of a product. It reiterated this call in its resolution on the New Circular Economy Action Plan, adopted on 10 February 2021. In that resolution it also asked for introducing a digital product passport, as well as for the development of a uniform repair score and the usage meters for certain product categories.

The directive proposed by the Commission would amend the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD) and the Consumer Rights Directive (CRD). It would include the following elements:

  • Consumers would have to be informed which products are more durable and reparable. Environmental and social impact, durability and reparability would be added to the list of product characteristics about which traders are forbidden to mislead consumers (Article 6 UCPD);
  • Traders providing a service that compares sustainability of products would be required to disclose information on the method of comparison, the products that are being compared and suppliers of the products or risk being found to be misleading consumers by means of omission of material information (Article 7 UCPD);
  • Ten new commercial practices would be added to the list of commercial practices that banned in all circumstances (Annex I UCPD), including displaying a sustainability label that is not based on a certification scheme or not established by public authorities; making generic environmental claims; presenting requirements imposed by law on all products as a distinctive feature of a trader’s offer; omitting to inform the consumer about a feature of a product that limits its durability; false claims about durability of a product; false claims about reparability of a product; persuading the consumer to replace a product earlier than necessary for technical reasons;
  • When buying products, consumers would have to be informed that the producer offers a commercial guarantee of durability longer than the current two-year legal guarantee, if that is the case. For energy-using products, the information that the producer has not provided information on the existence of such commercial guarantee would also have to be provided to consumers. For products with digital elements and for digital content and digital services, consumers would have to be informed for how long software updates will be provided. Consumers would also have to be provided with a reparability score, if a reparability score is already established for that product under EU law, or information about the availability of spare parts and user and repair manual, if the producer has made such information available (Articles 6 and 7 CRD).

Member States would be required to transpose the directive 18 months from the adoption at the latest and would have additional six months to start with its application.  

In Parliament, the file has been referred to the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, with Biljana Borzan (S&D, Croatia) as rapporteur.

In the Council, discussions have started in the Working Party on Consumer Protection and Information.

References:

Further reading:

Author: Nikolina Šajn, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Visit the European Parliament homepage on circular economy and climate change.

As of 20/05/2022.
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