Evaluation and fitness check roadmap of EU consumer law

The Commission published today an evaluation and fitness check roadmap of consumer law.

Plans for a Fitness Check of legal acts related to consumer rights and advertising were first announced in the 2013 REFIT Communication . The Commission Work Programme 2015 included, as one of the REFIT actions in the area of Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, a Fitness Check of key EU directives in the area of consumer rights and advertising:

Directive 2005/29/EC concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market (Unfair Commercial Practices Directive);

Directive 1999/44/EC on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees (Sales and Guarantees Directive);

Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts (Unfair Contract Terms Directive). The above-mentioned directives are part of the body of general EU consumer law. For consistency reasons and to ensure comprehensive evaluation the following Directives should also be subject to the Fitness Check:

Directive 98/6/EC on consumer protection in the indication of the prices of products offered to consumers (Price Indication Directive);

Directive 2006/114/EC concerning misleading and comparative advertising (Misleading and Comparative Advertising Directive);

Directive 2009/22/EC on injunctions for the protection of consumers’ interests (Injunctions Directive). The following Directive will be evaluated separately by the Commission in accordance with its Article 30:

Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU. The outcome of this separate evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive will feed into the conclusions of the Fitness Check.

There will be several types of consultations during the Fitness Check:

• Online public consultation of 12 weeks in order to provide an opportunity for the public to participate in the evaluation;

• Targeted consultation of representative organisations (Member states authorities, businesses and consumer and industry organisations) – by surveys, interviews and case studies performed by the Commission’s external contractor;

• Targeted online consultation of a representative number of consumers in each Member State performed by the external contractor;

• Case studies with businesses in each Member State, in particular SMEs, performed by the external contractor.

In addition, the Commission will organise 2 events for Member States experts and other stakeholders and will inform and consult them through the existing networks.

The overall aim of the Fitness Check is to analyse the  and EU added value of the policy framed by the directives subject to the Fitness Check. The focus of the Fitness Check will be to assess whether the fundamental objectives of these directives have been efficiently achieved and fully delivered.

In particular, it will assess whether these directives have efficiently achieved consumer protection and market integration objectives. It will analyse whether they have usefully contributed to the Single Market by enhancing consumers trust and confidence as well as by removing unjustified regulatory obstacles hindering cross-border trade in goods and services. As already highlighted in the context of the DSM Strategy and in the preparatory works for the above-mentioned proposal for a Directive on online and other distance sales of goods, the differences between national rules based on the minimum harmonisation nature of the Sales and Guarantees Directive have created Single Market barriers that impede businesses from offering goods across the entire EU and – as a result – consumer detriment.

The Fitness Check should also examine whether these instruments capture and reflect the current market trends and, in particular, changes in the markets and the behaviour of consumers. The questions related to redress will be an important part of the exercise. The Fitness Check should further assess how well these legal instruments fit within the overall Union’s legal landscape, taking into account also its international dimension. The Fitness Check will also explore ways to improve the application of the current EU legal framework.

In addition, the Fitness Check should assess the potential for simplification in the current regulatory framework and the reduction of regulatory costs and burdens while guaranteeing a high level of consumer protection. The directives subject to the Fitness Check have been enacted at different periods of time and regulate specific aspects of consumer rights, whilst at the same time pursuing the same common objectives. The Fitness Check will therefore explore whether and to what extent a potential codification of EU consumer law into a single EU instrument could bring added clarity, remove overlaps, and fill any gaps.

For example, the Fitness Check should analyse the interplay between the information requirements provided in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, the Price Indication Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive to see if there is a room for clarification or simplification. The Fitness Check will also assess whether the provisions of the Unfair Contract Terms Directive could be reinforced by, for example specific rules on standard terms that are always prohibited (that already exist in certain Member States which have introduced rules beyond the minimum requirements of the Directive) and whether the current minimum harmonisation nature of this Directive constitutes a barrier to the Single Market. As regards the Sales and Guarantees Directive, the Fitness Check should in particular assess its relevance in promoting more durable products and contributing to a circular economy.

Next to their application in the business-to-consumer (B2C) relations, the Fitness Check will analyse the need and potential for the application of the existing consumer rules also in business-to-business (B2B) transactions, in particular the transactions with the SMEs, by taking account of the B2B rules already laid down in the Misleading and Comparative Advertising Directive, and in transactions between businesses and non-for-profit entities that do not qualify as consumers under the current rules. The Fitness Check will also analyse the issues arising in consumer-to-consumer (C2C) transactions (increasingly relevant due to the rise of the sharing economy) and in consumer-to-business (C2B) relations.

The fitness check should be completed in the second quarter of 2017.

WTO, US and EU meat COOL labelling – QeA to the EU Commission

Question for written answer to the Commission – Ricardo Serrão Santos (S&D) – 17.09.2015

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) recently ruled in favour of Canada and Mexico in their dispute against the United States in relation to rules concerning origin labelling for meat.

The indication of the origin of meat applied in the US, on which the dispute centred, is mandatory for meat coming from animals born, reared and slaughtered in the country. The WTO ruled that this practice discriminated against meat imports from other countries, and retaliatory measures are now possible.

An indication of origin is important for producers and consumers alike and can offer significant added value.

What guarantees can the Commission give that this type of dispute will not affect agricultural exports from the European Union, where origin labelling applies?

Answer given by Mr Hogan on behalf of the Commission – 03.11.2015

The WTO dispute outcome did not state that all origin labelling for meat is against WTO rules. Instead it found that the practical application of the US system was discriminatory as it accorded less favourable treatment to imported livestock than to like domestic livestock, in particular due to disproportionate record keeping and verification requirements for producers and processors of imported livestock.

The EU country of origin labelling system for meat differs from the US system and in particular treats meat originating in the EU and in other countries in a similar way.

As for meat exports from the EU, these are naturally subject to the labelling rules of the importing country. The WTO dispute underlines that those rules must be non-discriminatory. This can only be of benefit to EU exports as they should therefore not be disadvantaged compared to local production.

(Source: European Parliament website)