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Commission outlines consumer strategy for next 5 years

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Commission outlines consumer strategy for next 5 years

Vera Jourova

(BRUSSELS) - The 'Consumer Agenda', published by the EU Commission Friday, sets out its consumer policy objectives for the next five years, and will serve as guidance to include consumer interests in all policy areas.

Key actions include an upcoming law to better inform consumers about how sustainable a product is and to be better protected against so-called 'greenwashing' and early obsolescence. The agenda also announces rules on the use of artificial intelligence and a plan to revise the EU's product safety law to address the challenges from new technologies and online selling.

The agenda also addresses how to increase consumer protection and resilience during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Existing legislation will be adapted to the digital transformation and there will be an action plan on product safety with China.

"We want to empower consumers to play their role in the green and digital transitions," said EC vice-president Vera Jourova: " At the same time we must ensure that our rules to protect consumer rights remain up to speed with today's digital reality - especially through vigorous enforcement and increased responsibility of online platforms."

The EU executive says it will continue to tackle consumer scams, whivh have increased as a result of COVID. It will also continue to ensure protection of travellers and passengers EU rights in case of cancelled trips. The Commission will analyse the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on the consumption patterns of Europeans, which will serve as a basis for future policy initiatives.

The New Consumer Agenda presents a vision for EU consumer policy from 2020 to 2025 focusing on five key priority areas:

  • Green transition - The Commission aims to ensure that sustainable products are available to consumers on the EU market and that consumers have better information to be able to make an informed choice. Next year, the Commission will present a proposal to equip consumers with better information on the sustainability of products and to fight practices, such as greenwashing or early obsolescence. The Commission will also promote repair and encourage more sustainable and "circular" products. The green transition cannot happen without companies - the Commission is determined to work with economic operators to encourage their pledges in support of sustainable consumption, beyond what is required by law.
  • Digital transformation - The digital transformation is radically changing consumers' lives offering new opportunities but also presenting them with challenges. The Commission aims to tackle online commercial practices that disregard consumers' right to make an informed choice, abuse their behavioural biases or distort their decision-making processes, such as dark patterns and hidden advertising. In addition, consumers' interests need to be duly taken into account when setting rules governing the digital economy and requirements for Artificial Intelligence (AI). To adapt current rules to the ongoing digitalisation and the increase of connected products, the Commission will also review the directive related to product safety. As there is a need to reinforce consumer protection regarding digitalisation of retail financial services, the directives for consumer credit and marketing of financial services will be reviewed.
  • Effective enforcement of consumer rights – While enforcement of consumer rights is the responsibility of Member States, the Commission has a coordinating and supporting role. The Commission will assist Member States in the timely implementation and enforcement of consumer law, including through the Consumer Protection Cooperation network. The Commission will also support national authorities, such as by deploying a toolbox of innovative e-tools to strengthen national authorities' capacity to tackle illegal online commercial practices and identify unsafe products.
  • Specific needs of certain consumer groups – Certain groups of consumers in certain situations can be particularly vulnerable and need specific safeguards, for instance children, older people or those with disabilities. The Commission will look into requirements for childcare product standards. In relation to those with financial vulnerabilities, exacerbated by COVID-19 crisis, the Commission will increase funding for improved debt advice in Member States. The Commission will also support initiatives providing local advice on how to access information – online and offline.
  • International cooperation – In a globalised world in which online purchases transcend borders, cooperation with international partners has become crucial. The Commission will develop an Action Plan with China in 2021 to enhance the safety of products sold online. As of 2021, the Commission will also develop regulatory support, technical assistance and capacity building for EU partner regions including in Africa.

New Consumer Agenda: strengthening consumer resilience for sustainable recovery

New Consumer Agenda – Factsheet

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