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Blueprint for stronger consumer protection - 24/05/2012

Handshake in front of law books © istockphoto.com/John Keith

New comprehensive EU approach to improving consumer protection and safety would give shoppers more information and help them seek redress when a sale goes wrong.

EU consumer protection rules are among the strongest in the world. However, the marketplace is becoming increasingly sophisticated, with more complex products, services and sales tactics.

To meet these challenges, the Commission is proposing to develop a more comprehensive EU approach to protecting consumers.

Consumer expenditure currently accounts for over half the EU’s GDP. A better system should increase consumer confidence and help drive competition and economic growth. Over the next 2 years the strategy to boost confidence and growth would:

  • improve consumer safety through stronger laws and more efficient market monitoring
  • increase information available to shoppers, such as the real cost of consumer credit or the right place to complain
  • step up enforcement and strengthen the redress process for when a sale goes wrong
  • align consumer rights to changes in society – for example, by adapting laws to the digital age, factoring in the needs of vulnerable consumers, and making it easier to choose sustainable goods and services.

The strategy will focus on strengthening consumer protection and safety when buying food, travelling, choosing an energy provider, managing finances or shopping online.

The Commission has already proposed 16 measures for e-commerce and online services to double online retail sales by 2015 – they cover better protection for consumers, more information and a wider range of choices.

Resolving contractual disputes

Proposals to provide out-of-court ways to resolve disputes with traders were made last year. The measures would give all consumers recourse to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – where a neutral third party can propose a solution or mediate between customer and trader.

Resolving online disputes

Online shoppers buying something from another EU country would also have recourse to Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), a process similar to ADR but handled entirely online.

These solutions would complement the help the EU currently provides to consumers in resolving cross-border disputes with traders. For example they can use the European Small Claims Procedure, which speeds up and reduces the cost of litigation for claims up to €2000. As of 2013, consumers will be able to complete the small claims forms online at the e-Justice portal, saving further time and effort.

European Consumer Agenda – more info

Consumers and the EU

Get help from the European Consumers Centres Network

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