The European Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Věra Jourová, was in Bucharest on Tuesday, November 20, to talk about the New Deal For Consumers.
For the last five months, the Commission’s Justice and Consumer officials have been travelling through Europe, to present the proposals in the New Deal For Consumers to business and consumer stakeholders in Member States.
Ms Jourová, has been fighting the company at the centre of the "dieselgate" scandal, over its refusal to compensate EU customers despite doing so in the US. The episode, along with others such as airlines mass cancellations of flights, has hardened Brussels’ view that the EU lacks the legal armoury to tackle cases affecting large numbers of people in multiple countries.
One of the cornerstones of the new legislation is that it will allow for collective redress. Although already available in a number of Member States, in many country’s consumers still don’t have access to the legal instruments for litigation whenever a company is found to have broken the law.
In Bucharest, Ms Jourová said: “I have been travelling from west to east, from north to south of Europe and I still notice that consumers in the east are less demanding compared to people in the west who always shout when something goes wrong.”
As has been customary whenever consumer dialogues have taken place in Eastern Member States this year, the issue of the dual quality of products was at the forefront of people’s minds.
Last year, tests and surveys done in several EU Member States, mainly in central and eastern Europe, showed that products advertised and sold under the same brand and seemingly identical packaging, in fact differed in composition and ingredients.
In Romania, Commissioner Věra Jourová called on citizens to stop this trend. “My main message to Romanian consumers is be more demanding,” she said.
Marius Pîrvu, President of National Authority for Consumers’ Protection, echoed the Commissioner’s words, saying it was important for Romanian authorities to tackle fraud and defend consumer rights in online contracts. “We need more transparency, more information, and better enforcement of the rules,” Mr Pirvu said. “Cheating cannot come cheap and collective rights of consumers must be defended.”
Romania’s economy currently ranks 16th in the European Union and represents 1.23% of the EU economy, according to the data published by Eurostat for 2017. This year, the country’s economic growth accelerated in the third quarter, likely due to rising public spending. As consumer confidence grows, Romanian authorities want to make sure the laws protecting consumers are robust enough.
“We want to remain an active and important partner in building a stronger European Union,” said Melania-Gabriela Ciot, Romania’s State Secretary. “That is only possible with dialogue and trust. We need a more integrated and stronger EU, avoiding fragmentation. As Mr Juncker said, we should not have second-class consumers. Equality is an indispensable element to a stronger and more competitive Europe.”
Diana Moraru, from the National Authority for Consumers’ Protection, shared the Commission’s view that the EU already has one of the strongest consumer protection legislation in the world, but that enforcement can be improved.
“We have the harshest system in the world, but we lack enforcement,” Ms Moraru said. “We need consumers’ representation by qualified entities, we need higher fines and tackle aggressive doorstep selling.”
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.
As the Consumer Dialogues come to an end, the goal 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.