European Union:

EU Puts Consumer Rights Back On The Agenda


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On Friday, the European Commission launched its
New Consumer Agenda
, setting out its plans for consumer policy
from 2020 – 2025. This is a significant insight for
stakeholders into the EU’s strategic objectives over the next
five years. Sustainability, new technologies, online sales and
effective cross-border EU enforcement top the bill.

The Commission’s agenda includes changes to how products are
designed, labelled, marketed and sold online, as well as how the
safety and compliance of products, and consumer rights and
remedies, are enforced. Given the significance of these changes, we
will follow up with more detailed commentary on the practical
implications for product manufacturers. For now, here’s our
initial read of the key takeaways.

The Commission’s objectives build on its New Deal for
Consumers and focus on five key areas:

  1. Green transition.
    The Commission wants to ensure that sustainable products, and the
    environmental information necessary to be make informed choices,
    are available to EU consumers. Alongside rolling out wider
    requirements for ecodesign and right to repair, it plans to present
    a proposal next year to address better information on products’
    sustainability and target “greenwashing” (unsubstantiated
    claims regarding the green credentials of products).

  2. Digital
    transformation
    . The Commission is looking at adapting
    existing legislation and issuing guidance to ensure the EU regime
    is fit for purpose, with plans to:

    • tackle online commercial practices
      that impede consumers’ informed choices, abuse their
      behavioural biases or distort their decision-making processes, such
      as dark patterns and hidden advertising;

    • ensure consumers’ interests are
      taken into account when setting rules governing the digital economy
      and requirements for Artificial Intelligence; and

    • adapt current rules to the ongoing
      digitalisation and the increase of connected products, with a
      review of the General Product Safety Directive.


  3. Effective
    enforcement
    . The Commission wants to assist EU Member
    States in the enforcement of consumer law. It is proposing
    coordinated initiatives through the EU’s Consumer Protection
    Cooperation network and the development of a toolbox of
    “innovative e-tools” to strengthen national
    authorities’ capacity to tackle illegal online commercial
    practices, and to identify unsafe products. It also hopes that
    consumer groups will play a part in enforcement – supported
    by the EU’s new Directive on Representative Actions, which will
    allow them to bring cross-border actions for breaches of consumer
    law and obtain injunctions and compensation on their behalf.

  4. Protecting vulnerable
    consumers
    . The Commission recognises that the digital
    transformation may pose challenges for the elderly and those with
    disabilities. The EU’s Accessibility Act, due to be implemented
    by 2025, will seek to improve the accessibility of digital products
    in the EU. In the meantime, the Commission also plans to carry out
    a review of the existing safety standards applicable to childcare
    products to ensure that children are protected adequately.

  5. Online sales and
    international cooperation
    . The Commission continues to set
    its sights on the safety of products sold online. It plans to
    cooperate with China to develop an Action Plan in 2021 and expects
    to develop similar plans with other regional partners, including in
    Africa.

Next Steps

The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee is due to
debate the New Consumer Agenda on Thursday. Some of the planned
initiatives (for example on the Circular Economy) are already
underway – others will follow early next year. Follow
Productwise for more updates.

Further reading

Originally Published by Cooley, November 2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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