Consumer rights and law
In the EU, consumer protection legislation guarantees that everyone has the right to be treated fairly when buying household goods at the supermarket, paying the bill at the energy supplier or downloading music.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European treaties since the Single European Act guarantee a high level of consumer protection in the EU. It is also a general objective defined in Article 12 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
European legislation guarantees consumers:
- fair treatment;
- products which meet acceptable standards;
- a right of redress if something goes wrong.
EU legislation in other areas also has to take consumer protection into account.
Generally, consumer protection is ensured by a diverse set of policies, such as food and product safety or data protection.
Consumer and marketing legislation is aimed at protecting the economic interests of consumers. It mainly covers unfair commercial practices and consumer contract law, such as misleading advertising and unfair contract terms.
European consumer and marketing law is based on the notion that the asymmetry of information, where the seller knows more about the product or service than the consumer, is open to abuse. Additionally there are provisions that protect vulnerable consumers, such as children.
The current challenges for consumer protection entail fully opening up the potential of the internal market, including the online market, to all citizens by bringing down barriers and improving the confidence of consumers in cross-border shopping.
European consumer legislation is crucial in order to overcome obstacles to the development of the internal market.
Consumer protection is therefore an essential part of the European Commission's strategic planning, as signified by its role in these Communications: