The Citizens' Dialogue on the New Deal for Consumers took place in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, on November 08, as the Commission continues its efforts to listen to stakeholder views on and clarify details on the New Deal for Consumers package.
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. In the Slovenian capital it was no different.
Eva Stravs Podlogar, Slovenia State Secretary of Consumer Affairs said: "We are concerned with the safety of Consumers when ordering online and also the safety of commercial entities because we don't want either side to be exploited in any way."
Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality has underlined that although the EU possesses some of the strongest consumer protection in the world, there are still far too many cases in which consumers are discriminated against and don't get the appropriate compensation, including in cases of mass harm.
"In a globalised world, where the big companies have a huge advantage over individual consumers, we need to level the odds. Representative actions, in the European way, will bring more fairness to consumers, not more business for law firms. And with stronger sanctions linked to the annual turnover of a company, consumer authorities will finally get teeth to punish the cheaters. It cannot be cheap to cheat."
Those present at the dialogue in Ljubljana agreed that the law needs to be more "transparent."
Darja Tomse, Slovenia's Head of Consumer and Competition Protection Division, said: We support the goals of the proposal in their entirety because we believe legislation needs to be adapted to the modern age and digital sphere. We need to ensure collective redress to consumers across the EU, not just in some MS as it is currently the case."
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.
With the new proposals citizens will be able to obtain remedies collectively through a representative action under this Directive. Such collective redress was previously not provided under Union law.
This model, however, 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.
This new system will make sure European consumers can fully benefit from their rights and can obtain compensation, while avoiding the risk of abusive or unmerited litigation.
Breda Kutin, from the Slovenian Consumers Association said: "We direly need new consumer legislation. If I take the example of VW, consumers were left empty handed in many countries. The penalties applied don't provide any redress to the consumer."
Marie-Paule Benassi, Acting Director for Consumers, said the Commission's goal was not to rewrite all the rules, but rather reinforcing existing legislation. "No, we are building on existing consumer rights. What we want to do now is to tackle enforcement of consumer rights."