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.

Plant Harmful organisms in the EU – Annual report 2014

Article 16 (1) and (2) of Directive 2000/29/EC, requires that Member States immediately notify the European Commission and other Member States, of the presence or appearance of harmful organisms found on their territory or part of it, as well as the measures taken to eradicate or avoid the spread of the harmful organism concerned.

This is required whether the harmful organisms are regulated (specifically listed in European Union (EU) legislation) or not. The European Commission analyses and reports on these notifications on a continuous basis and provides monthly reports on notifications received to the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, section Plant Health, in order to assist risk management decisions at EU level.

This report provides an overview of the notifications received from Member States in 2014, as well as the main trends in the period 2010 to 2014.

The total number of notifications received annually has remained relatively stable since 2010. In 2014, a total of 220 notifications were received from 27 Member States. Approximately two thirds of these related to regulated harmful organisms. 19 were updates to previous notifications.

Some of the notifications received in 2014 give rise to concern because of the seriousness of the particular harmful organisms and because of their first finding or their spread in the EU territory. Some of these harmful organisms are currently non–regulated in the EU. However, because of the potential risk they present, they are listed in the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation Alert list, i.e. identified as good candidates for a Pest Risk Analysis.

At EU level, actions have been planned or are being taken with a view to addressing these risks. As in previous years, the number of notifications varies significantly between Member States which could reflect a different interpretation of Member States’ obligations pursuant to Article 16 (1) and (2).

Furthermore, despite some improvement compared to previous year, notifications still present a consistent lack of certain information which hinders the risk management decision process and capacity to have a clear picture of the effectiveness of phytosanitary measures implemented and of the status of the different harmful organisms in the EU. The adoption of Decision 2014/917/EU in December 2014, which sets out detailed rules for the implementation of Article 16 (1) and (2), combined with the development of a web-based notification system (EUROPHYT) and a common protocol for notifications, are expected to foster the harmonisation of practices between Member States. This should help timely decisions at EU level for an increased level of protection of the EU territory against phytosanitary risks.

In 2014, a large proportion of the outbreak notifications (72%) either did not make any reference to the source of the infestation or stated that it was unknown. Out of the 201 outbreak notifications, only 57 provided information on the possible source of the infestation. As regards movements within the EU, infested planting material is often considered as the likely source of the infestation.

Between the new risks identified the well known Xylella fastidiosa in coffee plants was the most dangerous. Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterium listed in Annex IAI, was first found in the EU in 2013, in the province of Lecce in Italy where a sudden decline of olives was observed. This finding was closely followed up by the Commission in consultation with the Standing Committee, and EU emergency measures were adopted in February 2014. In addition, a Commission audit was carried out to the affected area in February 2014, followed by 3 further audits since then to assess the situation and control measures implemented by the Competent Authorities. Amongst other exchanges of information with Italy, three notifications were received in 2014 in which Italy reported new vectors, new host plants and the extent of the infestation in the Lecce region (see also section 4.2.1). Regarding the findings on Coffea plants referred to in section 4.2.1, an import ban on such plants from Costa Rica and Honduras has been introduced with Commission Implementing Decision 2015/789/EU to protect the EU from further introductions from these origins.

For more information see also the EU Commission infographic.