On 29 May 2017, the European Commission published the results of the fitness check of EU consumer and marketing rules.
Fitness Checks are comprehensive evaluations aimed at assessing whether the regulatory framework for a particular policy sector is “fit for purpose” and provide an evidence-based critical analysis of whether EU actions are proportionate to their objectives.
The Fitness Check of EU Consumer and Marketing legislation:
- covered the following directives: Directive 2005/29/EC (Unfair Commercial Practices Directive); Directive 1999/44/EC (Sales and Guarantees Directive); Directive 93/13/EEC (Unfair Contract Terms Directive); Directive 98/6/EC (Price Indication Directive); Directive 2006/114/EC (Misleading and Comparative Advertising Directive); Directive 2009/22/EC (Injunctions Directive).
- was performed according to the following criteria: effectiveness (have the objectives been met?); efficiency (what were the costs and benefits involved?); coherence (is the EU consumer legislation complementing or contradicting other policy and legislation?); relevance (does EU legislation address the main problems that consumers are facing today?); EU added value (did EU action provide clear added-value?).
Commission’s response highlighted that consumer protection regulation actually remains fit for purpose and, when applied effectively, the existing rules tackle the problems that European consumers are facing today, also in online market.
Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice and Consumers at this regard, stated that "European consumers are amongst the best protected in the world. They benefit from strong consumer rights whether they buy in their own country or cross-border".
EU consumer rules have contributed to improve consumer confidence: in 2016, nearly 6 in 10 consumers (58%) felt they are well protected when buying something online from another Member State, compared to only one in ten (10%) in 2003. 7 in 10 people reported that they have benefited from the right to a free-of-charge minimum two year guarantee for goods.
However the Commission analysis identified some issues that should be addressed such as:
- limited efficient civil law remedy;
- diverging enforcement across Member States
- rights not fully adapted to the digital world
- low awareness of consumer rights
The Fitness Check report concludes that the key solution for achieving the Directives’ consumer protection objectives lies in better enforcing the existing rules, coupled with increasing awareness among consumers, traders and enforcement bodies.
The Commission is already acting to improve legislative measures on enforcement via its review of the CPC Regulation
The Commission is already working on updating some of the Consumer rules; this will lead to some changes to the consumer protection regulation in force.
The Commission updated its guidance on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which is the legal basis for many coordinated consumer rights enforcement actions at EU level.
The Commission proposed modern digital contract rules (IP/15/6264), which, once adopted, will provide clear rules to better protect consumer when they buy digital content. It will also align the common rules regarding remedies.
Regarding better enforcement, the Commission made a proposal to strengthen the cooperation between national consumer protection bodies (CPC) and the Commission (IP/16/1887).