How are consumer rights enforced in the EU?
National authorities in individual countries are responsible for the enforcement of EU consumer protection laws. In order to protect consumers when shopping across national borders, a cooperation framework was set up by Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation (EC) 2006/2004(CPC Regulation).
The CPC regulation allows national authorities in EU and EEA countries to cooperate to jointly address breaches of consumer law in the Internal Market when an issue involves traders and consumers in different countries.
Cooperation functions as follows:
A competent authority in a country where consumers' rights are being violated can ask its counterpart in the country where the trader is based to take action to stop this breach of law.
Participating countries are obliged to provide mutual assistance.
Authorities, with the Commission's support, can also coordinate their approaches to applying consumer protection law so as to tackle widespread infringements.
The cooperation is applicable to consumer rules covering various areas such as unfair commercial practices, e-commerce, comparative advertising, package holidays, online selling, and passenger rights. + eventually link to the consumer acquis page of E2
The network also regularly carries out EU-wide screening of websites known as "sweeps”.
Improved enforcement to meet Digital Single Market challenges
The CPC regulation was recently updated in order to better enforce EU consumer law, in particular in the digital environment. The new CPC Regulation (EU) 2017/2394 will enter into force on 17 January 2020. It will improve the current framework by
- Extending the scope of the CPC Regulation to allow for cooperation in new areas. These new areas include infringements of short duration, such as short term misleading advertising campaigns. Also included are legislative areas not previously covered, such as the cross-border portability of online content services, passenger rights, unjustified geo-blocking, financial services; and Article 20 of the Services Directive, which lays down the non-discrimination provision for services in the EU
- Strengthening of the minimum powers of the competent authorities to cooperate in the cross-border context, and especially to tackle bad online practices faster. These include the power to carry out test purchases and mystery shopping, to suspend and take down websites, to impose interim measures, to impose penalties proportionate to the cross-border dimension of the imputed practice
- Putting in place stronger coordinated mechanisms to investigate and tackle widespread infringements
- Allowing authorities to accept commitments from traders to provide remedies to affected consumers in cases of widespread illegal commercial practices. The authorities will also be able to inform the affected consumers about how to seek compensation as provided for in national legislation
- Allowing external bodies such as consumer and trade associations (invited to do so by Member States) and European Consumer Centres to post alerts and signal issues to authorities and the Commission