The enforcement authorities in the Member States play the most important role in ensuring consumers’ rights, both at national and cross-border levels.
Defend your rights
Any consumer that believes his or her rights are violated can complain to the national enforcement authorities, or take legal action against a trader in the EU.
It is often a good idea to first speak to a consumer organisation in your country in order to learn more about your rights and your options to receive redress.
Before pursuing legal actions you can also consider using Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms. The enforcement authorities in your country will often be able to inform on the availability of such ADR mechanisms and other redress options.
You can also find information on your rights on the websites specifically dedicated to consumer information by the European Commission as well as on Your Europe, the general help and advice pages for EU citizens.
In its first joint project, national enforcement authorities across the EU coordinated their legal approach on consumer rules and adopted a common position towards online games.
The four most important consumer issues raised by this action are:
- Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
- Games should not directly encourage children to buy items or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
- Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements and purchases should not be debited through default settings without consumers’ explicit consent;
- Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.
Find out more:
Enforcement in another Member State
If you want advice with a complaint against a trader based in another EU country, or would like some travel or shopping advice for abroad in the EU, you can address yourself to the relevant European Consumer Centre . These exist in all EU countries, plus Norway and Iceland.
The enforcement authorities also cooperate in order to improve the protection of consumers in the EU, for example by testing the consumer oriented websites for compliance with legislation. You find examples of such exercises on the European Commission's “Sweep” page managed by the Directorate General for Health and Consumers.
In the area of EU consumer protection, the Commission has no direct enforcement powers in relation to economic operators who may have infringed EU law and it cannot assess individual cases between consumers and particular traders, which often requires the appraisal of facts.
Nonetheless, the Commission can open infringement proceedings under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) if it has evidence for an infringement of EU law by a Member State. Such an infringement may consist, in particular, in the lack of transposition, the inadequate transposition of an EU Directive or an administrative practice – including lack of or inadequate enforcement actions - which is not in compliance with EU law.
Infringement proceedings in the interest of the EU have to be distinguished from the protection of rights in individual cases, which is typically ensured by the national courts.