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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.

Strengthening market surveillance of harmonised industrial products

28-03-2019

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, the Commission proposed, on 19 December 2017, to strengthen market surveillance rules for non-food products harmonised by EU legislation. The proposal for a compliance and enforcement ...

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, the Commission proposed, on 19 December 2017, to strengthen market surveillance rules for non-food products harmonised by EU legislation. The proposal for a compliance and enforcement regulation would increase EU-level coordination of market surveillance, clarify the procedures for the mutual assistance mechanism, and require non-EU manufacturers to designate a natural or legal person responsible for compliance information. On 7 February 2019, Parliament and Council reached a provisional agreement on the proposal. Parliament is due to vote on that agreement during the April II plenary session. Fourth edition. The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure. Please note this document has been designed for on-line viewing.

Strengthening the market surveillance of products

27-03-2018

An initial appraisal of the impact assessment suggests that methodological strengths outweigh the weaknesses in this overall convincing analysis. This impact assessment is underpinned by a substantial body of work and clearly shows expertise. Nonetheless, the impact assessment could have provided more information on the links with two pending legislative procedures. Its presentation could have further facilitated consideration of the choices made by the Commission.

An initial appraisal of the impact assessment suggests that methodological strengths outweigh the weaknesses in this overall convincing analysis. This impact assessment is underpinned by a substantial body of work and clearly shows expertise. Nonetheless, the impact assessment could have provided more information on the links with two pending legislative procedures. Its presentation could have further facilitated consideration of the choices made by the Commission.

European Commission guidelines on dual quality of branded food products

07-11-2017

On 26 September 2017, the European Commission published a notice laying out guidelines on the application of EU food and consumer protection law to issues of dual quality of food products. This legally non-binding notice follows tests in seven 'new' EU Member States that compared the composition and sensory qualities of branded products sold in those countries with some of the 'old' Member States. The tests showed that some of the products included less of the main ingredient, included ingredients ...

On 26 September 2017, the European Commission published a notice laying out guidelines on the application of EU food and consumer protection law to issues of dual quality of food products. This legally non-binding notice follows tests in seven 'new' EU Member States that compared the composition and sensory qualities of branded products sold in those countries with some of the 'old' Member States. The tests showed that some of the products included less of the main ingredient, included ingredients that were considered to be less healthy and of poorer quality, or had different taste, consistency, and other sensory characteristics. Manufacturers have questioned the reliability of the tests, claiming the differences were the result of adjusting their products to local tastes or using local ingredients and different places of manufacture. The Commission notice acknowledges that producers have a right to differentiate their products, but warns that consumers must not be misled. It clarifies the provisions of EU legislation which should enable the national authorities in Member States to act. It introduces the notion of a 'product of reference', against which consumer expectations are to be measured. Consumers need to be adequately informed if a product differs from their expectations, as when inadequate information leads them to buy a product they would not otherwise buy, such dual quality may be contrary to the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. Members of the European Parliament have regularly spoken out against the practice of dual quality of food, with the European Parliament asking the Commission to verify the extent of the problem as early as 2013.

Dual quality of branded food products: Addressing a possible east-west divide

20-06-2017

Recent tests on branded food in three 'new' EU Member States have shown that the taste and composition of these products, sold under the same name and in the same packaging, sometimes differ from the 'same' products sold in neighbouring 'old' Member States. While the ingredients were generally properly labelled and the products were considered safe for consumption, some of those in 'new' Member States were considered to be of inferior quality and less healthy, and were also more expensive. Similar ...

Recent tests on branded food in three 'new' EU Member States have shown that the taste and composition of these products, sold under the same name and in the same packaging, sometimes differ from the 'same' products sold in neighbouring 'old' Member States. While the ingredients were generally properly labelled and the products were considered safe for consumption, some of those in 'new' Member States were considered to be of inferior quality and less healthy, and were also more expensive. Similar claims have previously been made concerning cosmetics and laundry detergents. Companies are known to change the composition of their branded products to adjust to local taste, local ingredients, divergent purchasing power, etc. EU legislation does not consider this to be misleading, as long as the products are safe, properly labelled and not falsely advertised as being identical to those sold in another Member State. At the same time, trademark law, while protecting the right of the trademark owner to communicate the origin and quality of products by using a mark, does not offer the consumer a legally enforceable guarantee. In 2013 the European Parliament asked the Commission to look into the matter, and in 2017 a group of MEPs issued a major interpellation asking the Commission to make proposals to amend EU legislation in connection with the 'dual quality' of products. The Commission has so far been reluctant to take this path, preferring to address the issue in the High-Level Forum for a better functioning food supply chain.

Medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices

10-05-2017

Medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices cover a wide array of products. The EU legal framework for such devices was harmonised in the 1990s. The European Commission presented a pair of proposals for regulations in September 2012. Following Parliament's first readings in April 2014, the Council agreed its positions in October 2015. At the conclusion of the trilogues, agreement was reached on 25 May 2016. This was endorsed by the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee on 15 June ...

Medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices cover a wide array of products. The EU legal framework for such devices was harmonised in the 1990s. The European Commission presented a pair of proposals for regulations in September 2012. Following Parliament's first readings in April 2014, the Council agreed its positions in October 2015. At the conclusion of the trilogues, agreement was reached on 25 May 2016. This was endorsed by the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee on 15 June and confirmed by Parliament's ENVI Committee on the same day. Both draft texts were adopted by the Council on 7 March 2017, and Parliament's second-reading vote on 5 April completed the adoption procedure. The regulation on medical devices will become fully applicable in May 2020, and that on in vitro diagnostic medical devices in May 2022.

Protecting and empowering EU consumers

14-02-2017

Wide-ranging consumer protection: The European system has developed over 30 years, with direct benefits for consumers in various areas of their daily lives. High standards and more choice: EU rules impose the highest safety requirements in the world, not least for toys. Lower prices: Mobile phone roaming costs have decreased by 92 % since 2007 and will be abolished in June 2017. All European travellers will then 'roam like at home'. More safety: Thanks to EU road safety laws, Europe has the lowest ...

Wide-ranging consumer protection: The European system has developed over 30 years, with direct benefits for consumers in various areas of their daily lives. High standards and more choice: EU rules impose the highest safety requirements in the world, not least for toys. Lower prices: Mobile phone roaming costs have decreased by 92 % since 2007 and will be abolished in June 2017. All European travellers will then 'roam like at home'. More safety: Thanks to EU road safety laws, Europe has the lowest accident fatality rate in the world – deaths fell by 43 % between 2001 and 2010 and again by 17 % from 2010 to 2015.

EU policy and legislation on chemicals: Overview, with a focus on REACH

19-12-2016

This publication presents an overview of European Union policy on chemicals. It describes EU chemicals legislation, in particular the REACH Regulation, as well as other relevant legislative acts and international agreements on chemicals. However, it does not address the regulatory framework applicable to pesticides (plant protection products and biocides) in depth. The publication presents information available about the costs and benefits of EU chemicals legislation and gives an overview of the ...

This publication presents an overview of European Union policy on chemicals. It describes EU chemicals legislation, in particular the REACH Regulation, as well as other relevant legislative acts and international agreements on chemicals. However, it does not address the regulatory framework applicable to pesticides (plant protection products and biocides) in depth. The publication presents information available about the costs and benefits of EU chemicals legislation and gives an overview of the opportunities and challenges associated with the current legal framework. It outlines relevant views of stakeholders and the European Parliament. Finally, the publication lays out actions that the European Commission is expected to take in the years to come. Chemicals are the building blocks of life. They are present in us, around us and in the products we buy. They are used in almost all industries and play an important role in virtually all economic sectors. The EU chemicals sector represents 1.1 % of EU gross domestic product and accounts for about 1.2 million jobs. Chemicals enable us to live more comfortable lives, yet they may also have adverse effects on the environment and human health. The cornerstone of EU chemicals legislation is the 2006 Regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (widely known as REACH). Other major legislative acts relate to the classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals, in order to ensure that hazards are clearly communicated to consumers and workers; the export and import of hazardous chemicals and the control of persistent organic pollutants, partly implementing international agreements; the prevention of major accidents involving dangerous chemicals; and the management of pesticides. The European Commission is currently carrying out fitness checks on the chemicals legislation. Actions in the coming years are expected to relate to a range of topics, such as the process of application for authorisation, nano¬materials, a strategy for a non-toxic environment, registration requirements for low volume substances, and polymers.

Medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices

07-06-2016

Medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices cover a wide array of products, from sticking plasters, to heart valves, to state-of-the-art analytical laboratory equipment, with over 500 000 devices on the EU market. The EU legal framework for such devices was harmonised in the 1990s. The European Commission presented a pair of proposals for regulations in September 2012, to update the framework. Following Parliament's first readings in April 2014, the Council agreed its positions in October ...

Medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices cover a wide array of products, from sticking plasters, to heart valves, to state-of-the-art analytical laboratory equipment, with over 500 000 devices on the EU market. The EU legal framework for such devices was harmonised in the 1990s. The European Commission presented a pair of proposals for regulations in September 2012, to update the framework. Following Parliament's first readings in April 2014, the Council agreed its positions in October 2015. At the conclusion of the tenth trilogue meeting, agreement was reached on both proposals on 25 May 2016. The compromise centres on stricter requirements for notified bodies, stronger pre-market scrutiny and post-marketing surveillance; strengthened rules for high-risk devices and certain other categories of devices; and increased transparency and traceability. This updates a previous edition from December 2015: PE 572.819. A more recent edition of this document is available. Find it by searching by the document title at this address: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/home.html

Cableway installations: Proposal for a new regulation

31-05-2016

Around 17 500 cableway installations currently exist in western Europe and the Alps, representing 60% of the global total. European industry has generally held a dominant position in the global cableway installations market, with the ski industry remaining the primary market for cableway technology. The new regulation covering the European Economic Area is to replace Directive 2000/9/EC relating to cableway installations designed to carry persons. Its aim is to simplify the current rules, align them ...

Around 17 500 cableway installations currently exist in western Europe and the Alps, representing 60% of the global total. European industry has generally held a dominant position in the global cableway installations market, with the ski industry remaining the primary market for cableway technology. The new regulation covering the European Economic Area is to replace Directive 2000/9/EC relating to cableway installations designed to carry persons. Its aim is to simplify the current rules, align them with the European Union New Legislative Framework, and address some problems experienced in implementing the Directive 2000/9/EC. Given its predominantly technical nature, the new regulation was developed with input from experts via targeted consultations. Commission's impact assessment revealed a broad consensus among Member States, manufacturers, notified bodies and stakeholders regarding the need to simplify and clarify the current rules. Following approval by both Parliament and Council, Regulation 2016/424 was published in the Official Journal of the European Union, entering into force on 20 April 2016. This updates the previous version, of January 2016: PE 573.895.

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