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Citizens' Dialogue on the New Deal for Consumers

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The Hungarian Deputy State Secretary in charge of Consumer Protection and Technology, Nikoletta Keszthelvi, has given a warm welcome to the New Deal for Consumers, which was discussed during a Citizens' Dialogue in Budapest, on Thursday.

In front of a large audience comprised of consumer rights and business representatives, as well as everyday citizens, Ms Keszthelvi said the new consumer rights proposals by the Commission go hand in hand with the Hungarian government's family-friendly policies.

"The Hungarian government has tasked itself with protecting families and providing secure and safe products for families, not just online but in the conventional marketplace as well," Ms Keszthelvi said.

On Thursday, a big focus of the discussions was on how the internet has come to affect people's shopping habits. 

Hungary ranks 23rd out of the 28 EU Member States when it comes to digitisation. It performs well on connectivity, thanks to the wide availability and the high take up of fast and ultrafast broadband.

Ms Keszthelvi said Hungarians' consumer habits will rely heavily on the online world in the years to come. "Online trade is on the rise and digitisation is becoming second-nature to us.  In the future this will translate into a much wider pull of internet customers."

The dual quality of foods received special attention. In Hungary, similar to what happens in other Eastern Member States, multinational food companies were found selling products made with lower quality ingredients while marketing them with the same packaging and branding used in Western Europe.

Representing the Commission, Blanca Rodriguez-Galindo, Head of Unit of Consumer and Marketing Law, said protecting European consumers is one of the Commission's top priorities. "We become consumers from the moment we are born and for us is very important that the trust between business and consumers should never be broke and transparency never diluted," Ms Galindo said.

Online shopping was also among the panellists' main concerns. Similar to what happens in other Member States, Hungarians still seem unsure about whom exactly they are dealing with when shopping online.

"Our everyday experience is that the consumers really get lost in the world of online trade," said Zsuzsanna Horváth , president of the Bács-Kiskun County Arbitration Board. "When they purchase items from online platforms they think the sellers are [professional] traders. It's when they want to reinforce their consumer rights that they realise they are not dealing with traders."

Ms Horváth also indicated she was "fully behind" the Commission's stance on the right of withdrawal, saying the policy "addresses the issues for traders who are presented with products which have already been used."

The issue of privacy online was also mentioned, particularly when it comes to how e-commerce platforms handle users' data.

"The traders just play this game now and the internet service providers just use people's search history, which represents a significant challenge," said Dr Attila Nagy, Deputy Director General of Hungary's Ministry of Agricultural, National Food-chain Safety Office. "I'm not sure if these proposals by the Commission will be able to deal with those issues."

In three months of hosting Citizens' Dialogue on the New Deal for Consumers around Europe, Budapest was the first event in which consumer rights groups and business representatives were in agreement that European consumer legislation needs a boost, and that business and traders who play by the rules have nothing to fear.

"Among the traders and businesses I spoke with, we do agree there should be a clean-up, a spring clean so to speak," said Dr Tamás Korcsog, legal adviser to the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "But we also think red-tape should be cut back."

As the Consumer Dialogues travel outside of the Brussels bubble over the coming months, preparations are being made for a November 28 meeting of all Member States in Brussels.

The goal is to iron out any differences before the package moves on to the European Council in December, by which time it is expected to adopt a common approach to The New Deal for Consumers.

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19 July 2018, 13.15 - 15.50 (CEST)
NOVOTEL Budapest Danube