EU Consumer Policy Today

An effective consumer policy that enables over 400 million Europeans to shop reliably and securely across borders is crucial to the completion of the internal market.
 
This is why a new Consumer Policy Strategy designed to fully integrate consumer interests across a broad range of policy areas is currently being prepared. This strategy, consisting of a number of initiatives, will replace the current policy, which runs from 2007 to 2013.

Protecting Rights, Lowering Costs

The Commission wants to ensure that consumer rights are protected across all Member States by setting out fully harmonised rules. This will reduce gaps and inconsistencies between national laws that have until now prevented consumers from shopping in a country other than their own.
 
These rights include the ability to compare prices, to be fully and properly informed on prices and contract terms before purchasing and to be protected from misleading advertisement and Internet fraudsters. Consumers must also be able to change their mind and withdraw from a contract within a certain amount of time without paying any additional charges.

The Commission will also simplify procedures for businesses to conduct cross-border purchases and lower costs that until now they have had to pay because of different rules applying to different contracts.

In order to achieve these objectives, the Commission is currently preparing the following (the complete listing is available from the EU Issue Tracker service):
• An Initiative on European Contract Law
• A Review of the existing rules on misleading and comparative advertisement
• A Review of the current legislation concerning the payment services
• A Review of existing rules on timeshare, long-term holiday product, resale and exchange contracts
• A Assessment of the implementation of the electronic commerce legislation
• An Evaluation of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive
• A Review of the EU rules on Audio-visual Media Services
• An Examination of the current EU laws on Services

In addition, a number of initiatives are already working their way through the EU institutions: 
• A Revision of current legislation on  Credit Agreements
• An Updated rules concerning Deposit Guarantee Schemes and Investor Compensation Schemes
• A New harmonised rules on Mortgage Credit Agreements
• A Regulation on Roaming Services

Enforcing Consumer Rights

Enforcement is vital if consumer rights are to be fully respected and properly applied. This is why the Commission intends to review current legislation on consumer protection cooperation across the EU and further improve the national enforcement authorities network (the CPC Network).
 
The Commission also intends to encourage greater international cooperation in the enforcement of consumer rights through agreements with third countries.

In order to achieve these objectives, the Commission is currently preparing the following: 
• An Initiative on Consumer Empowerment
• A Review of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Legislation
• An Initiative on an agreement with the US on enforcement of consumer protection laws.

In addition, the EU institutions are currently in the process of shaping and adopting a Regulation on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws.

Ensuring Compensation

According to a recent survey carried out in EU Member States, about a quarter of consumers do not complain when faced with a trade dispute, and a significant number prefer to settle disputes without going to court.
 
As a result, the Commission wants to encourage the use of cheaper, simpler and quicker redress mechanisms, such as the alternative dispute resolution (an out-of-court mechanism that involves the use of a third party to help consumes and traders find a solution), the online dispute resolution (dispute resolution which uses technology to facilitate resolution), mediation and collective redress (in cases of consumer mass claims).

In order to achieve these objectives, the Commission is currently preparing the following: 
• Harmonised Rules on Alternative Dispute Resolution 
• Mandatory rules on Online Dispute Resolution
• An Initiative on Collective Redress
• A Review of the current legislation on mediation
• An Assessment of the implementation of the existing EU law on injunction
• A Review of the EU legislation on small claims procedure

Additionally, the EU institutions are in the process of adopting a legislative measure that would create a European procedure (the European Account Preservation Order), which would help creditors who have carried out a cross-border transaction to recover their money.

Making Products Safer

The placement of safe products on the market is a key priority of EU Consumer Policy. To this end, the Commission is currently working to revise the General Product Safety Directive. It also wants to clarify and update current EU product safety rules, and plans to co-ordinate the action of market surveillance authorities.

In order to achieve these objectives, the Commission is currently preparing the following: 
• A Revision of the General Product Safety Directive
• Rules on product standards and marketing 
• A Revision of Toy Safety Directive
• Updated Rules on Tobacco Products

The EU institutions are also in the process of shaping and adopting the following initiatives:
• A Regulation revising the current rules on standardisation
• A Review of the Defective Products Liability

A Focus on Medical Sevices

The Commission intends to pay special attention to medical devices, which cover a wide range of products from simple bandages to life-support machines.
 
Current rules on medical devices diverge greatly across borders, which potentially jeopardises public health and leads to the fragmentation of the internal market for medical devices.
 
For these reasons, the Commission wants to revise the existing Medical Devices Directives in order to make the current EU legal framework for medical devices simpler, more harmonised and more up to date. In particular it intends to update the rules concerning implantable medical devices and diagnostic medical devices.

In order to achieve these objectives, the Commission is preparing the following: 
• A Revision of the current rules on Medical Devices
• A Revision of the legislation on vitro diagnostic medical devices
Safer cosmetics

The Commission also intends to revise existing rules concerning certain hair dye substances and to continue to develop alternative non-animal methods for the testing of cosmetic products. From July 2013, a new Regulation on Cosmetic Products will replace the current rules.

The Commission is preparing the following policy initiatives: 
• A Revision of current rules on certain hair-dye substances
• A Review of the use of nanomaterials in cosmetic products
• A Review of the use of substances with endocrine-disrupting properties