Enforcement of consumer rights in the European Union (EU)
The enforcement cooperation framework
National authorities are responsible for the effective enforcement of the laws establishing EU consumer rights. Cooperation among these authorities is essential to ensure that the laws establishing these rights are equally enforced across the internal market and to create a level playing field for businesses. This in turn secures a high level of consumer protection.
Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 on consumer protection cooperation (the CPC Regulation) lays down the general conditions and a framework for cooperation between national enforcement authorities.
It covers situations when the collective interests of consumers are at stake and allows authorities to stop breaches of consumer rules when the trader and the consumer are established in different countries.
Individuals who encountered problems in cross-border shopping can turn to the European Consumer Centres network.
The CPC Regulation links national Competent Authorities from all countries from the European Economic Area to form a European enforcement network, the "CPC Network". In each country a Single Liaison Office ensures the coordination of national authorities.
The cooperation is applicable to consumer rules covering various areas , such as unfair commercial practices, e-commerce, comparative advertising, package holidays, timeshares, distance selling, and passenger rights.
Concerted enforcement projects
Authorities in the CPC Network have similar investigation and enforcement powers.
Every year, the Network identifies common enforcement priorities and carries out concerted enforcement activities, for example the "sweeps".
In a sweep, authorities simultaneously check, on the basis of a common check-list, whether a chosen on-line sector complies with consumer rules and, where not, act upon breaches detected.
Authorities have started joint projects to coordinate their legal approach on consumer rules and adopt a common position towards a specific sector.
Review of the cooperation framework and monitoring
The CPC cooperation framework and its scope are under review since 2011. Consultation on the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation forms part of the review. The Commission will report on the outcome of this in-depth assessment by the end of 2014.
One central question of this exercise is to assess whether the current cooperation mechanisms are fit to respond to the new enforcement challenges posed by the rapid changes of consumer markets (e.g. e- and mobile shopping), the growing presence of operators acting on the whole EU-market and the downward pressure on resources available to enforcers.
Key steps of the review process include an external evaluation and extended consultation of stakeholders.
A strategic debate on enforcement of consumer rights at the European Consumer Summit 2013 provided first conclusions in this framework.
The Commission monitors and reports every two years on the application of the CPC Regulation combining the views of Member States with its own experience.