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Representative actions to protect the collective interests of consumers: A new deal for consumers

20-07-2020

On 11 April 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a new directive on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers. Currently, consumer organisations or independent public bodies can bring actions in the name of consumers in courts or before administrative authorities to stop infringements of consumer legislation. According to the proposal, they would be able to demand compensation for consumers as well. The co-legislators reached a provisional ...

On 11 April 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a new directive on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers. Currently, consumer organisations or independent public bodies can bring actions in the name of consumers in courts or before administrative authorities to stop infringements of consumer legislation. According to the proposal, they would be able to demand compensation for consumers as well. The co-legislators reached a provisional agreement on the proposal on 22 June 2020, which now needs to be confirmed by both institutions. According to the agreement, Member States would decide themselves the criteria for the designation of qualified entities for domestic actions, while the criteria for cross-border actions would be common across the whole of the EU. A loser-pays principle would be introduced, requiring the defeated party to pay the costs of the proceedings for the successful party. The Commission would be required to evaluate, within five years, whether a European ombudsman for collective redress for consumers is necessary. Third edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Enforcement of consumer protection legislation

11-06-2020

European consumers enjoy a high level of rights, but when the rules protecting them are broken, they need to be enforced. The main goals of enforcement are to prevent and punish infringements, and to enable consumers harmed by infringements to get wrongs put right (consumer redress). In the 2019 consumer conditions scoreboard poll, one in five consumers said that they had encountered problems when buying a product or service in the previous 12 months. However, whereas two thirds of them had complained ...

European consumers enjoy a high level of rights, but when the rules protecting them are broken, they need to be enforced. The main goals of enforcement are to prevent and punish infringements, and to enable consumers harmed by infringements to get wrongs put right (consumer redress). In the 2019 consumer conditions scoreboard poll, one in five consumers said that they had encountered problems when buying a product or service in the previous 12 months. However, whereas two thirds of them had complained – and were generally happy with the outcome, the other third decided not to do anything because they expected complaining to require too much time and effort, with an uncertain result. When it comes to faulty products, individual consumers can demand redress directly from sellers, and if this is unsuccessful, they can sue them in court. However, individual lawsuits are highly problematic, as, for instance, the costs often exceed the value of the claim. The EU therefore requires Member States to ensure that consumers have access to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, while the Commission runs an online dispute resolution platform. Consumers can also collectively seek injunctions to stop or ban infringements, and the EU institutions are also working on enabling consumer organisations to demand compensation in court. Consumer protection rules are also enforced by national public authorities, including through implementation of some EU-level enforcement rules. The Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation harmonises the powers of national competent authorities and lays down rules on their cooperation with counterparts in other Member States, while the EU has moved to harmonise maximum fines for widespread infringements of consumer protection rules.

General safety of vehicles and protection of vulnerable road users

24-01-2020

As part of the third 'Europe on the move' package of measures, on 27 May 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on type-approval requirements for motor vehicles and their trailers, as regards their general safety and the protection of vehicle occupants and vulnerable road users. The regulation is part of the EU's efforts to halve the number of fatal and serious injuries in road crashes between 2020 and 2030. It will introduce a number of advanced vehicle safety features ...

As part of the third 'Europe on the move' package of measures, on 27 May 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on type-approval requirements for motor vehicles and their trailers, as regards their general safety and the protection of vehicle occupants and vulnerable road users. The regulation is part of the EU's efforts to halve the number of fatal and serious injuries in road crashes between 2020 and 2030. It will introduce a number of advanced vehicle safety features that passenger cars, vans, buses and trucks will have to have as standard equipment in order to be sold on the internal market. These include intelligent speed assistance, alcohol interlock installation facilitation, driver drowsiness and attention warning, emergency stop signal, reversing detection and event data recorder. Additional requirements will apply to specific vehicle groups, such as vulnerable road user detection for buses and trucks. The new regulation, adopted by the co-legislators in 2019 and signed on 27 November 2019, will replace three current type-approval regulations as of July 2022: the General Vehicle Safety Regulation, the Pedestrian Protection Regulation and the Hydrogen-powered Motor Vehicles Regulation.

Modernisation of EU consumer protection rules: A new deal for consumers

15-01-2020

On 11 April 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on better enforcement and modernisation of EU consumer protection rules, as part of its 'new deal for consumers' package of measures. The proposal followed a fitness check of consumer legislation and an evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive that showed that EU consumer legislation could benefit from certain aspects being clarified and brought into line with the reality of the digital economy. Following negotiations ...

On 11 April 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on better enforcement and modernisation of EU consumer protection rules, as part of its 'new deal for consumers' package of measures. The proposal followed a fitness check of consumer legislation and an evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive that showed that EU consumer legislation could benefit from certain aspects being clarified and brought into line with the reality of the digital economy. Following negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, the agreed text was adopted by the European Parliament in April 2019, and the final act was signed on 27 November 2019. The new directive leaves the consumer’s right of withdrawal intact. It will ban several unfair commercial practices, such as false online reviews, and require Member States to set the maximum penalty for widespread infringement to at least 4 % of the trader’s annual turnover. Dual quality of food will not be banned altogether, but could be considered to be misleading depending on the circumstances. Online marketplaces will be required to inform consumers about the parameters of their search results. Fourth edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Dual quality of products – State of play

25-11-2019

In recent years, the concern that some branded products might be inferior in the Member States that have joined the European Union (EU) since 2004 has become ever more apparent. This concern has come to be known as the 'dual quality of products'. To address the issue, between 2018 and 2019, the European Commission's Joint Research Service (JRC) compared a set of branded food products sold under the same name and in the same or similar packaging across Member States – the first time a harmonised testing ...

In recent years, the concern that some branded products might be inferior in the Member States that have joined the European Union (EU) since 2004 has become ever more apparent. This concern has come to be known as the 'dual quality of products'. To address the issue, between 2018 and 2019, the European Commission's Joint Research Service (JRC) compared a set of branded food products sold under the same name and in the same or similar packaging across Member States – the first time a harmonised testing methodology has been used to compare products from the whole of the European Union. The analysis sought to determine whether, despite the identical or similar packaging, there were differences in product composition and, if so, whether those differences corresponded to any geographical pattern. Results showed that about one third of the branded food products analysed had a composition that differed from one Member State to another. However, the results did not point to any geographical pattern that might explain those differences. In 2017, the Commission had already sought to clarify the relevant legislation with a notice introducing a test that national consumer protection authorities could use to determine on a case by case basis whether the dual quality of food products was misleading. Later, in April 2018, in the framework of the 'new deal for consumers', its proposal for a new directive on modernisation of EU consumer protection rules sought to include the dual quality of products (not just of food products) in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. The European Parliament has long voiced its concerns about the dual quality of products and had called for it to be added to the 'blacklist' of practices that should always be considered as banned. However, the text of the new directive on modernisation of consumer protection rules as adopted by the co-legislators did not include dual quality as a practice that must be considered unfair in all cases, but rather as one that must be proven to be misleading on a case-by-case basis. The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) has criticised this, while business organisations defend the right of companies to differentiate their products in different markets.

Consumers and repair of products

17-09-2019

Repairing broken or damaged products can save consumers money by helping them postpone making replacement purchases, while also bringing benefits to the environment through lower waste production and use of resources. The EU's circular economy strategy considers maintenance and repair to be important ways of both keeping resources from being thrown away and of prolonging the lifespan of products. A 2018 European Commission behavioural study on consumer engagement in the circular economy showed that ...

Repairing broken or damaged products can save consumers money by helping them postpone making replacement purchases, while also bringing benefits to the environment through lower waste production and use of resources. The EU's circular economy strategy considers maintenance and repair to be important ways of both keeping resources from being thrown away and of prolonging the lifespan of products. A 2018 European Commission behavioural study on consumer engagement in the circular economy showed that 64 % of consumers always repair broken or damaged products. The top reason for not repairing products was the high price of repair, followed by the preference to get a new product and the feeling that the old product was obsolete or out of fashion. As for repairers, especially independent ones, they often complain about having no access to original spare parts, technical information, diagnostic software and training, as manufacturers sometimes limit these to their own after-sales services or to recognised repairers of a specific brand. EU consumer legislation regulates the right of consumers to have products repaired within the legal guarantee period, but not beyond its expiry or for defects not covered by the guarantee. Efforts to ensure access to repair are also included in EU environmental and product legislation. The upcoming ecodesign requirements for TV screens, refrigerators, lighting, household washing machines and dishwashers are expected to ensure that independent repairers have access to spare parts and repair information. The European Parliament has called for extending the ecodesign requirements to non-energy related products, including the reparability of products, more systematically in ecodesign legislation, and extending the duration of legal guarantees. Similar calls have come from a range of stakeholders.

Strengthening market surveillance of harmonised industrial products

29-07-2019

Harmonised products represent 69 % of the overall value of industrial products in the internal market. However, a significant part of these products does not comply with harmonised EU rules. This has negative effects on the health and safety of consumers, and on fair competition between businesses. To remedy the situation, in 2017 the Commission proposed to strengthen market surveillance rules for non-food products harmonised by EU legislation. Parliament and Council reached a provisional agreement ...

Harmonised products represent 69 % of the overall value of industrial products in the internal market. However, a significant part of these products does not comply with harmonised EU rules. This has negative effects on the health and safety of consumers, and on fair competition between businesses. To remedy the situation, in 2017 the Commission proposed to strengthen market surveillance rules for non-food products harmonised by EU legislation. Parliament and Council reached a provisional agreement on the proposal in February 2019. The new regulation was signed on 20 June and published in the Official Journal on 25 June 2019, applying in full from July 2021. It aims to increase EU-level coordination of market surveillance and clarify the procedures for the mutual assistance mechanism. Non-EU manufacturers of products that could cause an elevated level of risk to public interest will have to designate an importer, an authorised representative or a fulfilment service provider established in the EU. Fifth edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Consumer sale of goods

15-07-2019

The European Commission proposed a new directive on the consumer sale of goods in 2015, with the aim to lay down rules on online and other distance sales of goods. This was replaced on 31 October 2017 by an amended proposal, which sought to replace entirely the existing Consumer Sales Directive dating from 1999, and regulate contracts concluded both online and offline. The new directive was agreed in January 2019 after trilogue negotiations between Parliament and Council, and then adopted by the ...

The European Commission proposed a new directive on the consumer sale of goods in 2015, with the aim to lay down rules on online and other distance sales of goods. This was replaced on 31 October 2017 by an amended proposal, which sought to replace entirely the existing Consumer Sales Directive dating from 1999, and regulate contracts concluded both online and offline. The new directive was agreed in January 2019 after trilogue negotiations between Parliament and Council, and then adopted by the two institutions in March and April respectively. Signed in May 2019, it will allow Member States to decide on a legal guarantee of longer than two years and extend the period during which it is presumed that the goods were faulty from the start. It entered into force on 11 June 2019 and Member States have to apply it from 1 January 2022. Fifth edition, based on a briefing originally drafted by Rafał Mańko. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure. To view previous versions of this briefing, please see: PE 635.594 (March 2019).

Contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services

15-07-2019

The directive on contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services, proposed by the European Commission in 2015, harmonises some private-law aspects of such contracts at EU level for the first time. The directive will not fully harmonise the duration of legal guarantees for digital content and services, but national laws will not be allowed limit it to less than two years. For the first year from delivery, the burden of proof will be on the supplier. Traders will be required to provide ...

The directive on contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services, proposed by the European Commission in 2015, harmonises some private-law aspects of such contracts at EU level for the first time. The directive will not fully harmonise the duration of legal guarantees for digital content and services, but national laws will not be allowed limit it to less than two years. For the first year from delivery, the burden of proof will be on the supplier. Traders will be required to provide necessary updates. The directive will also establish what remedies consumers are entitled to and the order in which they can be used. Although the European Parliament proposed that the directive should cover embedded digital content as well, following negotiations with the Council, the co-legislators agreed that such content will be regulated by the new directive on sale of goods. The directive on contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services was formally signed into law in May 2019 and Member States have to apply its measures from 1 January 2022. Sixth edition of a briefing originally drafted by Rafał Mańko. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure. To view previous editions of this briefing, please see: PE 635.601 (March 2019).

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Protecting European consumers

28-06-2019

Consumer protection rules have been improving the rights of consumers in the European Union since the 1970s. While the level of protection is today considered to be among the highest in the world, consumers in the EU are still faced with a number of issues. According to the latest available data, in 2016 one in five consumers said that they had had a reason to complain in the last 12 months, a level which has remained largely unchanged since 2008. Since 2014, efforts have been made in a number of ...

Consumer protection rules have been improving the rights of consumers in the European Union since the 1970s. While the level of protection is today considered to be among the highest in the world, consumers in the EU are still faced with a number of issues. According to the latest available data, in 2016 one in five consumers said that they had had a reason to complain in the last 12 months, a level which has remained largely unchanged since 2008. Since 2014, efforts have been made in a number of areas, including stronger cross-border cooperation between national authorities in charge of consumer protection and market surveillance. Notably, the Commission proposed a 'new deal for consumers' in April 2018, to enable representative legal actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers and to modernise EU consumer protection rules. Sector-specific efforts included: eliminating roaming charges across the EU in 2017; legislation aimed at facilitating consumer participation in the digital single market; reforms on the rules on privacy and data protection; enhancing the rights of energy consumers and passengers; and efforts to address the 'dual quality' of branded food products. The EU budget for consumer protection is relatively small, because although rules in this field are made at the EU level, their implementation and enforcement are carried out by the Member States. The consumer programme has a budget of €188 million for the 2013-2020 period, or roughly €0.05 per citizen per year. This may change in the new multiannual financial framework, as consumer protection becomes part of a wider single market programme, which is expected to create synergies between its various components. Future policies could focus on longer product lifetime, labelling and quality requirements for non-agricultural and industrial products, fairer food labelling and retail financial services. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

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