European Consumer Summit 2012: keynote speech by John Dalli
Type: Complete speech
End production: 29/05/2012 First transmission: 29/05/2012
On 29 May 2012, John Dalli, Member of the EC in charge of Health and Consumer Policy, participated in the European Consumer Summit 2012, held in Brussels.
On this occasion, he gave a keynote speech to launch the European Consumer Agenda – Smart Consumers, Sustainable Consumption.
This European Consumer Summit 2012 highlighted two important areas that concerns reliable and transparent consumer information regarding greenwashing and comparison tools.
Only the original language version is authentic and it prevails in the event of its differing from the translated versions.
||Exterior view of the Autoworld building, in Brussels
||General atmosphere of the European Consumer Summit 2012 (3 shots)
||General views of the conference room (5 shots)
||Soundbite by John Dalli, Member of the EC in charge of Health and Consumer Policy, (in ENGLISH): I am very pleased to be here today for the opening of the fourth European Consumer Summit.
Let me start by noting that a great deal has happened since last year's Summit. At that time, we asked for your input for the preparation of the new Consumer Strategy and the new Consumer Programme, the financial framework underpinning the strategy. We have now delivered on both of these initiatives.
The strategy, or as we now call it, the Consumer Agenda, was prepared jointly by Vice-President Reding and myself, with input from many other Commission services. It presents the Commission's strategic vision for consumer policy for the years to come, including concrete actions which aim to empower consumers.
Growth is a pressing need and re-launching confidence in our economy is a must. We already have a blue print in place in the form of Europe 2020 – the Commission's strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
With consumer expenditure representing 56% of EU GDP, the active participation of confident and empowered consumers in the Single Market is essential to meeting these objectives. We want to put EU consumers at the very heart of the Single Market and provide them with a framework and the tools to make it work for them. We have therefore designed a strategy which is comprehensive and which covers consumer interests in all relevant EU policies.
As part of this process we also had to look into a number of key emerging challenges for consumer policy, such as: the growing complexity of markets and the mismatch between the nature and level of the information provided and what consumers actually need; the move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption, which is a necessity both from an environmental and an economic point of view; and the needs of vulnerable consumers – not forgetting that we can all of us, in a given situation, be a vulnerable consumer.
We have built the Consumer Agenda around four main objectives. Under each of these, we have defined key principles to guide our work in the coming years. We have also listed specific initiatives to be implemented within the mandate of the current Commission, by 2014. Our first main objective is to further strengthen consumer safety, for products, services and food. Safety is a cornerstone of consumer policy, as demonstrated by the interest shown in the latest report on safety of products, published on 8 May. We want to achieve a seamless safety net from the farm or factory to the consumer's front door.
I am currently working – together with Vice-President Tajani –on revising the legislative framework on product safety (the GPSD), which will lead to a greater coherence of our actions and better enforcement, whilst reducing compliance costs.
We will also present a Green Paper on the safety of services in 2013. Plus, we will update the legal framework to reinforce food safety.
The second main objective of the Consumer Agenda is to enhance knowledge for both consumers and traders. We want to improve consumer information and education, in order to allow consumers navigating increasingly complex markets. As we want consumers to make informed decisions that will drive the policies of both supplying companies and regulators.
We will work very closely with national authorities to raise consumer awareness on key issues.
The role of intermediaries in channelling and filtering information to consumers is growing in importance, with consumers increasingly turning to comparison websites in particular.
In this context, one of the workshops organised for this afternoon will start the discussion on how comparison tools can provide consumers with transparent and reliable information.
The Consumer Agenda also highlights the fundamental role of consumer organisations not only through informing and raising the awareness of consumers, but also by effectively representing and defending them and their interests.
The 50th anniversary of BEUC earlier this month marked an occasion to celebrate the essential contribution of consumer organisations, and we will work closely with national authorities to make sure that this role is properly recognised and promoted.
We envisage EU information campaigns on consumer rights where harmonised rules and significant cross border purchasing options exist. On-line purchasing rights are a notable example for such a campaign within the framework of the 2013 European Year of Citizens. Our action will be developed in close cooperation with national authorities, the ECC network and other national partners that are trusted by consumers as sources of information and advice.
In the area of education, we aim – as a first step – to improve future consumers' (12 to 18 years) knowledge of consumer rights and interests via teaching in schools. In practical terms, this will be based on an internet platform as an active resource and building a teachers' community to exchange teaching materials and best practices across the European Union.
Capacity building is clearly of crucial importance. We will refocus this action towards a wider, more active and participatory training community between national organisations, with a more diversified and multilingual online and off-line offer. On this basis, we will setup a web-based platform, offering e–learning, information and exchange of best practice for consumer associations. This platform will work in synergy with the web platform, targeting teachers. Based on the principles set out in the Consumer Agenda, we will next month publish the consumer empowerment staff working document which outlines a number of ideas in the field of consumer information, education and capacity-building.
The third main objective of the Consumer Agenda is to step up enforcement and to secure redress.
Proper enforcement is essential not only to increase trust of consumers in the Single Market, but also to ensure a level playing field for reputable traders. We are assessing how best to further strengthen effectiveness of the network of enforcement authorities – the Consumer Protection Cooperation network – and, if necessary, we will propose an amendment to the legislative framework.
With regard to the right to redress, our objective is to ensure the adoption of our proposals on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and On-line Dispute Resolution (ODR). They are key instruments for helping consumers to get redress quickly, out-of-court, and at a low cost when things go wrong.
The proposals aim at ensuring full coverage, compliance with certain quality requirements and consumer awareness about the ADR options available, without creating new ADR procedures. They build on what already exists in the Member States and fully respect their individual traditions.
The ODR proposal will establish, for the first time, a central online platform for consumer complaint dispute resolution in relation to cross border online purchases. This will serve as a single entry point, enabling consumers and businesses to swiftly solve their problems when shopping or selling online from and to another EU country.
The issue of collective redress will be addressed by the
Commission later this year.
The fourth and final objective of the Consumer Agenda is to make sure that consumer rights and key policies are in line with current technological and societal developments. In particular, we need to make sure that consumers can take full advantage of the digital single market and have access to the digital products and services they want – easily, legally and affordably.
To do so, we must remove persistent barriers that hold back the development of e-commerce in the European Union and obstruct the cross-border circulation of digital content.
This is why we are taking initiatives to tackle the issue of collective management of copyright as well as the complex regime of private copying and levies which should pave the way for the cross-border dissemination of music, films, and digitised books and articles across the European Union.
The Consumer Agenda also makes very clear that consumer interests should be included in sectoral policies which are particularly important for consumers: Food, where priorities are safety, reduction of waste and sustainability throughout the food chain; Energy, where consumers should be able to get the best value for money and to better manage their energy consumption; Financial services, where consumers should be provided with the tools to manage their finances and protect their economic interests; and Transport, where legislation should support sustainable mobility and modern patterns of travel and guarantee a safe return through a revised Package Travel Directive.
These sectors are among the most problematic for consumers and at the same time have a very big impact on household budgets. It is also in most of these sectors where consumers should be increasingly encouraged to make sustainable choices. In this context, I look forward to the outcome of the second workshop organised today, which will deal with the issue of "greenwashing" and misleading green claims.
Our four objectives for the European Consumer Agenda and the list of actions aimed at implementing them are certainly ambitious. One of the tools we will use to monitor their implementation is the regular publication of a report in which we describe achievements in the area of consumer policy and how consumer interests are integrated into EU policies. This Report was suggested by the European Parliament.
We have already published the first edition together with the Consumer Agenda, as a stock-taking exercise covering the period between mid 2010 and end 2011.
Before I draw to a close, let me remind you that the Commission adopted in November last year a proposal for the 2014 to 2020 Consumer Programme – the financial framework aimed at supporting, together with the other sectoral frameworks, the implementation of the Consumer Agenda from 2014 onwards.
We are now looking forward to its adoption by the budgetary authorities, the Parliament and Council.
The Consumer Agenda is by no means an end in itself. It is, however a significant and important step in the right direction – providing us with a solid, coherent framework for our future work in the field of European consumer policy, towards strengthening the position of the European consumers within the Single Market. I am sure that I can count on your support and active contribution towards maximising its future and success.
Thank you very much.