Consumer Protection

The European Union’s representatives started addressing consumer protection intensively in the early 1970s. In April 1975, the European Commission submitted the EEC’s Preliminary Programme for a consumer protection and information policy. This document went on to become the cornerstone of the European Community’s consumer legislation. It laid down five fundamental consumer rights:

  • the right to health and safety
  • the right to the protection of economic interests
  • the right to compensation
  • the right to information and education
  • the right to representation

The European Commission’s current activities and the operations planned for the near future are contained in the EU Consumer Policy Strategy for 2007-2013. In this document, the European Commission sets two fundamental objectives: to ensure a high level of consumer protection, in particular by means of improved evidence, better consultation and better representation of consumers’ interests, and to ensure efficient application of consumer protection legislation, especially by means of cooperating in the enforcement thereof, disclosing information, and providing education and legal means of recourse. The most important activity is the current review of EU consumer law, which is expected to culminate in the approval of the horizontal Directive on Consumer Rights. The Czech Presidency will also address this matter.

Review of EU consumer law

The review of EU consumer law launched by the European Commission in 2004 is intended to simplify the current legal framework and create a genuine internal market guaranteeing all consumers throughout the EU the same rights and providing the same level of protection, as well as guaranteeing all businesses equal access to all national retail markets in the EU on the principle of equal competition, thus smoothing the way for cross-border commercial relations.

In February 2007 the European Commission published the Green Paper on the Consumer Acquis. The Green Paper started off the public consultations on the existing internal market issues and attracted contributions from more than 300 interested subjects. The opinion prevailed that the only way to progress and to achieve the set targets in the area of revision is to promote the adoption of an effective horizontal legal instrument with general applicability which would be valid for both national and cross-border commercial relations. After analysing the impact of such an instrument, the European Commission published, on 8 October 2008, a draft Consumer Rights Directive based on the principle of full and targeted harmonisation . The proposal, consisting of 50 Articles and 5 Annexes, systematically regulates common elements of four revised directives, based on minimal harmonisation, and removes the contradictions between them. The directives to be substituted by the present proposal are Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts, Directive 85/577/EEC of 20 December 1985 to protect the consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises, Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts, and Directive 99/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 May 1999 on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees.
The proposal brings more exact rules and adjusts the existing rules to the current economic development in the following areas: definitions, general requirements for information for consumers and special requirements for information for consumers according to the type of sales realised, the right to withdraw from the contract, compliance with the contract, commercial guarantees, consumer rights as provided for in the terms of contract (protection against unfair terms).

Consumer protection priorities of the Czech Presidency

The consumer protection objectives pursued by the Czech Presidency are: to increase the confidence of consumers and businesses in the EU internal market; to strengthen their rights; and to remove obstacles to trade on the internal market. The Czech Presidency therefore takes the view that it is crucial to reach a broad consensus in adopting new consumer protection legislation; in particular, maximum progress needs to be made in the debate on the Framework Directive on Consumer Contractual Rights, resulting from the review of the consumer acquis. Debate within the Council has been launched by the French Presidency, and the Czech Presidency will continue these efforts. In the discussions, the diverse interests of businesses and consumers and the different levels of consumer protection regulation in individual Member States will have to be taken into account.
In addition, the Czech Republic will need to respond to the European Commission’s other activities. Specifically, consultations on the collective compensation of consumers are likely to come to an end, and a presentation of the findings after the first year of the Consumer Scoreboard can be expected.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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