38

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General product safety regulation

21-09-2021

On 30 June 2021, the Commission adopted a proposal for a general product safety regulation, which would replace the current General Product Safety Directive, as part of the regulatory fitness-check programme (REFIT). The proposal seeks to address the challenges of product safety of emerging technologies, including use of artificial intelligence (AI) and connected devices, and to establish clear obligations for online marketplaces, which consumers increasingly use for their online purchases. The proposal ...

On 30 June 2021, the Commission adopted a proposal for a general product safety regulation, which would replace the current General Product Safety Directive, as part of the regulatory fitness-check programme (REFIT). The proposal seeks to address the challenges of product safety of emerging technologies, including use of artificial intelligence (AI) and connected devices, and to establish clear obligations for online marketplaces, which consumers increasingly use for their online purchases. The proposal would create a single set of market surveillance rules for both harmonised and non-harmonised products, including by aligning the provisions with the Market Surveillance Regulation, and would improve the effectiveness of product recalls. For non-harmonised products where neither manufacturers nor distributors are established in the European Union, it would introduce a requirement for a person to be responsible for the product in the Union. The proposal would clarify consumer remedies and harmonise maximum penalties for infringements. In the European Parliament, the file has been provisionally referred to the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. First edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Vulnerable consumers

21-05-2021

Compared to the average consumer, who is considered to be able to make rational choices to find the best deals and benefit from competitive markets, vulnerable consumers are not considered to be able to do so for a variety of reasons. There are two main approaches to identifying vulnerable consumers. One emphasises those individual characteristics of the consumer that increase the (theoretical) risk of becoming vulnerable, such as low socio-economic status, low education level, not being able to ...

Compared to the average consumer, who is considered to be able to make rational choices to find the best deals and benefit from competitive markets, vulnerable consumers are not considered to be able to do so for a variety of reasons. There are two main approaches to identifying vulnerable consumers. One emphasises those individual characteristics of the consumer that increase the (theoretical) risk of becoming vulnerable, such as low socio-economic status, low education level, not being able to speak a particular language, or a minority status. The other suggests that all consumers can become vulnerable due to the interplay between their individual characteristics, the circumstances and the economic market. According to this view, consumers can move in and out of vulnerability, depending on their individual state. The European Commission's 2018 consumer survey found that 43 % of EU citizens believed themselves to be vulnerable as consumers. The image of vulnerable consumers in European Union (EU) law is narrower than that found in the academic literature. They are defined in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which requires additional protection for consumers who are 'particularly vulnerable due to their mental or physical infirmity, age or credulity'. This definition has been subject to much criticism, as it does not take the different variables that can make consumers vulnerable into account. Provisions protecting vulnerable consumers can be found in other horizontal consumer legislation, as well as legislation on specific sectors, for instance in the field of energy, finance and food legislation. The development of e commerce and artificial intelligence have also been raising concerns about consumer vulnerability. For instance, the European consumer organisation BEUC is asking for a rethink of the concepts of 'average' and 'vulnerable' consumers, as some practices online, which combine collection of data with manipulating consumers, are making all consumers vulnerable and therefore require all consumers to be equally protected. The European Parliament has long advocated a wider concept in defining vulnerable consumers, and stronger protection for them, including in the energy, finance and digital sectors.

New consumer agenda

03-02-2021

Consumer expenditure accounted for 52.6 % of European Union gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019. Meanwhile, in the same year, one in five consumers said they had had at least one reason to complain about a purchase the previous year – a number largely unchanged for a decade. Increasingly, consumers do their shopping online. One in six people bought at least one item online in 2019. Yet while online shopping is now ubiquitous, European rules have lagged behind. On 13 November 2020, the European Commission ...

Consumer expenditure accounted for 52.6 % of European Union gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019. Meanwhile, in the same year, one in five consumers said they had had at least one reason to complain about a purchase the previous year – a number largely unchanged for a decade. Increasingly, consumers do their shopping online. One in six people bought at least one item online in 2019. Yet while online shopping is now ubiquitous, European rules have lagged behind. On 13 November 2020, the European Commission published a new consumer agenda – its strategy for consumer policy for the 2020-2025 period. The strategy aims to address five long-term priorities: the green transition, digital transformation, redress and the enforcement of consumer rights, the specific needs of certain consumer groups, and international cooperation. In addition, it proposes measures to address immediate challenges that have emerged during the pandemic. Over the next five-year period, the Commission plans to empower consumers for the green transition: giving them information on the sustainability of products; establishing a right to repair; and laying down rules regarding green claims. It plans to tackle problematic practices on online marketplaces, fix the gaps in rules on product safety, especially for products sold online, and improve enforcement of existing rules. At the same time, it plans to improve protection of vulnerable groups, especially people who do not have access to the internet, and children. It plans to revise the rules for retail banking and improve financial advice services in Member States. Although the European Parliament has not adopted a resolution on the consumer agenda per se, it has adopted several legislative and non-legislative resolutions on topics covered by the agenda, including the sustainable single market, product safety, the future digital services act and artificial intelligence. Various stakeholders have expressed their views on the new consumer agenda, both during the public consultation before it was published, and following its publication.

Representative actions to protect the collective interests of consumers: A new deal for consumers

11-01-2021

On 11 April 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a new directive on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers. Currently, consumer organisations or independent public bodies can bring actions in the name of consumers in courts or before administrative authorities to stop infringements of consumer legislation. According to the proposal, they would be able to demand compensation for consumers as well. The co-legislators adopted a new directive ...

On 11 April 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a new directive on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers. Currently, consumer organisations or independent public bodies can bring actions in the name of consumers in courts or before administrative authorities to stop infringements of consumer legislation. According to the proposal, they would be able to demand compensation for consumers as well. The co-legislators adopted a new directive in November 2020. According to that directive, Member States will decide themselves the criteria for the designation of qualified entities for domestic actions, while the criteria for cross-border actions will be common across the whole of the EU. A loser-pays principle will be introduced, requiring the defeated party to pay the costs of the proceedings for the successful party. The Commission is required to evaluate, within five years, whether a European ombudsman for collective redress for consumers is necessary.

Towards a more sustainable single market for business and consumers

19-11-2020

Achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, in line with the European Green Deal, will require the EU to overhaul its production and consumption patterns. During the November II plenary session, the European Parliament is expected to vote on an own-initiative report that recommends a possible way forward by making products more durable and easier to repair and recycle, and by providing consumers with more rights and information, so as to nudge them towards more sustainable choices.

Achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, in line with the European Green Deal, will require the EU to overhaul its production and consumption patterns. During the November II plenary session, the European Parliament is expected to vote on an own-initiative report that recommends a possible way forward by making products more durable and easier to repair and recycle, and by providing consumers with more rights and information, so as to nudge them towards more sustainable choices.

Sustainable consumption: Helping consumers make eco-friendly choices

21-10-2020

Household consumption in the EU has major environmental impacts, which in a number of cases exceed planetary boundaries. Two thirds of consumers in the EU realise that their consumption habits have negative effects on the environment, and the solution that they mention most often is to change consumption habits and production patterns. However, a number of studies have shown a gap between consumers' good intentions and their actual behaviour. This happens because sustainability is not the only thing ...

Household consumption in the EU has major environmental impacts, which in a number of cases exceed planetary boundaries. Two thirds of consumers in the EU realise that their consumption habits have negative effects on the environment, and the solution that they mention most often is to change consumption habits and production patterns. However, a number of studies have shown a gap between consumers' good intentions and their actual behaviour. This happens because sustainability is not the only thing consumers consider when choosing what to buy; they are also influenced by price, availability and convenience, habits, values, social norms and peer pressure, emotional appeal, and the feeling of making a difference. Consumers also use their consumption patterns to communicate who they are to themselves and to others. Studies on the impacts of consumption show that these are influenced mainly by people's income. The European Union has a number of policies that are relevant for consumers' sustainable choices. These include environmental product requirements, information and labelling requirements, rules on product guarantees, climate legislation that attempts to build the price of CO2 emissions into production expenses, and waste legislation that makes it easier to recycle. The European Commission now plans to add a legislative initiative to empower consumers for the green transition. The European Parliament has long been a supporter of making consumption in the EU more sustainable, and has recently called for measures to ensure that consumers are provided with transparent, comparable and harmonised product information, especially when it comes to the durability and reparability of products and their environmental footprint.

Enforcement of consumer protection legislation

11-06-2020

European consumers enjoy a high level of rights, but when the rules protecting them are broken, they need to be enforced. The main goals of enforcement are to prevent and punish infringements, and to enable consumers harmed by infringements to get wrongs put right (consumer redress). In the 2019 consumer conditions scoreboard poll, one in five consumers said that they had encountered problems when buying a product or service in the previous 12 months. However, whereas two thirds of them had complained ...

European consumers enjoy a high level of rights, but when the rules protecting them are broken, they need to be enforced. The main goals of enforcement are to prevent and punish infringements, and to enable consumers harmed by infringements to get wrongs put right (consumer redress). In the 2019 consumer conditions scoreboard poll, one in five consumers said that they had encountered problems when buying a product or service in the previous 12 months. However, whereas two thirds of them had complained – and were generally happy with the outcome, the other third decided not to do anything because they expected complaining to require too much time and effort, with an uncertain result. When it comes to faulty products, individual consumers can demand redress directly from sellers, and if this is unsuccessful, they can sue them in court. However, individual lawsuits are highly problematic, as, for instance, the costs often exceed the value of the claim. The EU therefore requires Member States to ensure that consumers have access to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, while the Commission runs an online dispute resolution platform. Consumers can also collectively seek injunctions to stop or ban infringements, and the EU institutions are also working on enabling consumer organisations to demand compensation in court. Consumer protection rules are also enforced by national public authorities, including through implementation of some EU-level enforcement rules. The Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation harmonises the powers of national competent authorities and lays down rules on their cooperation with counterparts in other Member States, while the EU has moved to harmonise maximum fines for widespread infringements of consumer protection rules.

General safety of vehicles and protection of vulnerable road users

24-01-2020

As part of the third 'Europe on the move' package of measures, on 27 May 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on type-approval requirements for motor vehicles and their trailers, as regards their general safety and the protection of vehicle occupants and vulnerable road users. The regulation is part of the EU's efforts to halve the number of fatal and serious injuries in road crashes between 2020 and 2030. It will introduce a number of advanced vehicle safety features ...

As part of the third 'Europe on the move' package of measures, on 27 May 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on type-approval requirements for motor vehicles and their trailers, as regards their general safety and the protection of vehicle occupants and vulnerable road users. The regulation is part of the EU's efforts to halve the number of fatal and serious injuries in road crashes between 2020 and 2030. It will introduce a number of advanced vehicle safety features that passenger cars, vans, buses and trucks will have to have as standard equipment in order to be sold on the internal market. These include intelligent speed assistance, alcohol interlock installation facilitation, driver drowsiness and attention warning, emergency stop signal, reversing detection and event data recorder. Additional requirements will apply to specific vehicle groups, such as vulnerable road user detection for buses and trucks. The new regulation, adopted by the co-legislators in 2019 and signed on 27 November 2019, will replace three current type-approval regulations as of July 2022: the General Vehicle Safety Regulation, the Pedestrian Protection Regulation and the Hydrogen-powered Motor Vehicles Regulation.

Modernisation of EU consumer protection rules: A new deal for consumers

15-01-2020

On 11 April 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on better enforcement and modernisation of EU consumer protection rules, as part of its 'new deal for consumers' package of measures. The proposal followed a fitness check of consumer legislation and an evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive that showed that EU consumer legislation could benefit from certain aspects being clarified and brought into line with the reality of the digital economy. Following negotiations ...

On 11 April 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on better enforcement and modernisation of EU consumer protection rules, as part of its 'new deal for consumers' package of measures. The proposal followed a fitness check of consumer legislation and an evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive that showed that EU consumer legislation could benefit from certain aspects being clarified and brought into line with the reality of the digital economy. Following negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, the agreed text was adopted by the European Parliament in April 2019, and the final act was signed on 27 November 2019. The new directive leaves the consumer’s right of withdrawal intact. It will ban several unfair commercial practices, such as false online reviews, and require Member States to set the maximum penalty for widespread infringement to at least 4 % of the trader’s annual turnover. Dual quality of food will not be banned altogether, but could be considered to be misleading depending on the circumstances. Online marketplaces will be required to inform consumers about the parameters of their search results. Fourth edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Dual quality of products – State of play

25-11-2019

In recent years, the concern that some branded products might be inferior in the Member States that have joined the European Union (EU) since 2004 has become ever more apparent. This concern has come to be known as the 'dual quality of products'. To address the issue, between 2018 and 2019, the European Commission's Joint Research Service (JRC) compared a set of branded food products sold under the same name and in the same or similar packaging across Member States – the first time a harmonised testing ...

In recent years, the concern that some branded products might be inferior in the Member States that have joined the European Union (EU) since 2004 has become ever more apparent. This concern has come to be known as the 'dual quality of products'. To address the issue, between 2018 and 2019, the European Commission's Joint Research Service (JRC) compared a set of branded food products sold under the same name and in the same or similar packaging across Member States – the first time a harmonised testing methodology has been used to compare products from the whole of the European Union. The analysis sought to determine whether, despite the identical or similar packaging, there were differences in product composition and, if so, whether those differences corresponded to any geographical pattern. Results showed that about one third of the branded food products analysed had a composition that differed from one Member State to another. However, the results did not point to any geographical pattern that might explain those differences. In 2017, the Commission had already sought to clarify the relevant legislation with a notice introducing a test that national consumer protection authorities could use to determine on a case by case basis whether the dual quality of food products was misleading. Later, in April 2018, in the framework of the 'new deal for consumers', its proposal for a new directive on modernisation of EU consumer protection rules sought to include the dual quality of products (not just of food products) in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. The European Parliament has long voiced its concerns about the dual quality of products and had called for it to be added to the 'blacklist' of practices that should always be considered as banned. However, the text of the new directive on modernisation of consumer protection rules as adopted by the co-legislators did not include dual quality as a practice that must be considered unfair in all cases, but rather as one that must be proven to be misleading on a case-by-case basis. The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) has criticised this, while business organisations defend the right of companies to differentiate their products in different markets.

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