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.

Written QeA to EU Commission – COOL for dairy products

In the following answer, the EU Commission clearly closes the door to an immediate adoption of a rule about the mandatory country of origin labelling for milk, milk used as ingredients in dairy products and other types of meat, in the light of the study published on 20th May 2015 and commented in this former article.

Question for written answer to the Commission – Miguel Viegas (GUE/NGL) –  15th June 2015

Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers (‘INCO Regulation’) introduced a set of provisions relating to indications of origin on the labelling of foodstuffs.

Article 26(5) and (6) of this regulation urges the Commission to submit a series of reports to the European Parliament and the Council concerning the possibility of extending mandatory declaration of origin on the label to other foodstuffs.

In this respect, the Commission published a report on 20 May 2015 on the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for milk, milk used as an ingredient in dairy products and other types of meat apart from swine, sheep, goat and poultry meat.

Based on various scenarios (1 — 6), the report stresses the high costs arising from overly restrictive regulations on this subject and is inconclusive as regards consumers’ readiness to bear the costs of such a measure.

What is the Commission’s assessment of the report and what consequences will it have in terms of the INCO Regulation?

Answer given by Mr Hogan on behalf of the Commission – 28th August 2015

The report on mandatory origin labelling of milk, milk used as an ingredient in dairy products and other types of meat concludes that voluntary labelling is the most suitable option: it addresses consumers’ interest in relation to origin information without imposing additional burdens on food business operators and the authorities. Providing for the mandatory origin labelling would negatively impact food business operators, in particular those located in border areas and those dealing with highly processed products, and would put additional burden on national administrations.

Based on those conclusions, the Commission does not intend to propose any legislative action at this stage.

(Source: European Parliament website)