The European Commissioner for Justice and Consumers Věra Jourová said that she wants more fairness for the European consumer.
Speaking at the Citizens’ Dialogue on The New Deal for Consumers in Brussels, Belgium, Ms Jourová said fairness and trust "go hand-in-hand". Ms Jourouva said: "If there is more fairness, there will be more trust from the consumers’ side.”
Adopted by the Commission on April 11, The New Deal for Consumers aims to modernise consumer law, strengthen its enforcement and provide a system of representative actions to protect the collective interests of consumers.
During past dialogues, the New Deal proposals received widespread support, with most stakeholders in Member States in agreement with the need to adapt current consumer legislation to the realities of the digital economy and to ensure effective redress means for consumers across the Union.
The Dieselgate scandal has shown how European consumers remain exposed to unfair commercial practices, such as misleading advertising by car manufacturers not in compliance with the Union's environmental legislation.
Belgium does have a collective redress mechanism, but many countries in the EU don’t.
In his keynote speech on Monday, Kris Peeters, from Belgium’s Economy Ministry, echoed Ms Jourouva’s words, saying trust is essential for the health of the national economy. “Improving the consumer environment is crucial for our economic growth,” Mr Peeters said. “As trust grows between consumer, retail and government, so does our economy strengthen.”
With the new proposals, citizens will be able to obtain remedies collectively through a representative action mechanism. Such collective redress was previously not provided under EU law.
However, some in the panel warned about the dangers of creating an unwelcoming environment for large and small companies.
“The state should be SME friendly as far as administrative burden is concerned,” said Sophie Heuskin from the Union des Classes Moyennes. “Red-tape should be brought to a minimum for the self-employed and the SMEs.”
The Commission's proposal on collective redress has strong safeguards and is distinctly different from US-style class actions. Representative actions will not be open to law firms, but only to entities such as consumer organisations that are non-profit and fulfil strict eligibility criteria, monitored by a public authority.
Blanca Rodriguez Gallindo, Head of Consumer Marketing Law at the Commission, said the New Deal came about as a result of a "deep rethinking on the existing consumer legislation."
As the Consumer Dialogues come to an end, the hope now is to gather enough support among the Member States, and convince them of the urgency in adopting these proposals within the term of the current European Parliament by spring 2019.