New Deal For Consumers gets warm welcome in Italy
"Consumers need to be better protected from the power of large companies." That was the message given by Vito Borrelli, Deputy Head of the European Commission Representation in Italy, during a Citizens' Dialogue on the New Deal for Consumers, in Rome.
In a frank discussion on the pros and cons of the new consumer legislation being proposed by the European Commission, Mr Borelli was joined by a number of consumer association representatives, as well as members of the business community.
Among those present was Dario Galli, Italy's Deputy Minister for Economic Development, who welcomed the Commission's "urgency" in the adoption of the New Deal.
In its 2018 Work Programme, the Commission put forward ‘A New Deal for Consumers' - a revision of the EU consumer directives. It follows the Fitness Check of EU consumer and marketing laws and the evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive, finalised in May 2017. These showed that although fit for purpose, EU consumer law is in need of some targeted revisions. Enforcement of the rules and awareness among the public has also proved to be an issue.
Alessandro Mostaccio, from Italy's Movimento Consumatori, was optimistic about the proposals, reiterating the Commission's vision that "consumer rights are also citizens’ rights."
The New Deal for Consumers includes two different proposals. The so-called Omnibus proposal targets amendments to four different directives: unfair commercial practices directive, consumer rights directive, unfair contract terms directives and the price indication directive. The other proposal is about representative actions which replaces the injunctions directive.
Since starting its term in 2014, the current Commission has placed consumer issues at the top of its agenda. One of the most impactful achievements was to bring an end to mobile roaming charges last year.
Roberto Cerminara, in charge of Legal affairs of Confcommercio, the traders' organisation, identified the New Deal as an opportunity to implement "some much needed reforms", even in best practice countries such as Italy.
Giovanni Calabro, the Director General for Consumer protection in the Italian Enforcement Authority, Agcm said that he hoped that, with the New Deal, both the network and the authorities in other Member States will become strong enough and have adequate powers to intervene more.
Italy is the euro zone's third-largest economy but the country has fallen in economic hard times lately. Rome's debt currently stands at a towering 132 percent of gross domestic product, making it the second largest debt ratio in the eurozone after Greece. However, Italian consumer confidence jumped in June. Household morale increased to 116.2 from a revised 113.9 last month, according to bureau Istat.
Referring to the dual-quality of products, an issue especially acute in eastern Member States, Maria Pisano, Director of the Italian ECC, said Italy should join the fight against the issue, "as it is a means to support product quality and non-discrimination."
Antonio Matonti, Director for Legislative Affairs at Confindustria, underlined the strong interest in the New Deal, especially when it comes to the modernisation aspect.
"The EU's new consumer legislation will render authorities more effective in their surveillance and sanctioning role," Mr Matonti said. "Strengthening sanctions is not easy for companies but it is generally accepted."
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 of opinion on the package before it moves on to the final negotiations in the European Council and European Parliament.