The Swedish Minister for Consumers and Financial Markets, Per Bolund, has welcomed the overall objectives of The New Deal for Consumers, and praised the "fitness check" on consumer legislation started by the Commission three years ago. "The [existing] consumer legislation is overall fit for purpose," Mr Bolund said. "But there are some challenges and changes needed mainly due to the development of digital services."
On Friday, the Swedish capital, Stockholm, hosted this year's fifth Citizens' Dialogue on The New Deal for Consumers.
In April this year, the European Commission proposed a "new deal" for consumers following the Volkswagen "dieselgate" scandal in which the EU consumers, unlike those in the United States, have not been compensated. The proposal is currently subject to negotiations in the Council and under scrutiny by national Parliaments and subsequently by the European Parliament.
Talking about the New Deal in front of an attentive audience at Stockholm's Sheraton Hotel, Francisco Fonseca Morillo, Deputy Director General for Justice and Consumers, said he was convinced about the benefits the new legislation will bring, but that it was important to get out of the Brussels bubble to listen to the concerns and views of citizens in the Member States. Quoting the late IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, Mr Murillo said: "What's good for our customers is in the long run good for us. So we are here because what is good for consumers is good for all of Europe and all of us."
The birthplace of Spotify, Minecraft, and SoundCloud, amongst others, Sweden is home to Europe’s largest tech companies and its capital is second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to the number of “unicorns” — billion-dollar tech companies — that it produces per capita.
One of the cornerstones of the new consumer legislation the Commission wants to implement is ensuring online platforms play by the rules. That includes how the personal information of their users is handled, something the new GDPR rules that entered into force 25 May aims to address.
"We think the legislation should be strengthened even further," said one member of the audience during the Q&A part of the event. "Changes need to be made so when a company uses data for pure financial profit another strong law is needed."
The New Deal for Consumers has faced some resistance from the business community, which fears the legislation being proposed might open the doors to a US-style class action system. Just like he has done in previous Consumer Dialogues, Mr Morillo was quick to point out that The New Deal is not just about consumers but also about the health of the economy.
The event in the Swedish capital was attended by more than 60 people, among them representatives of consumer rights groups from the Nordic member states and their respective consumer authorities.
Last year, Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, fought Volkswagen, 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.