Consumer protection, enforcement of consumer rights and redress

Vera Jourova.fotoAudizione al Parlamento Europe di Vĕra Jourová, neo-commissario designato per Giustizia, consumatori e parità di genere UE. 
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Questions from the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection to the neo-Commissione designate Vĕra Jourová

Consumer protection, enforcement of consumer rights and redress

How will you promote enhanced competition, consumer choice and consumer protection in the sectors under your responsibility?

If I am confirmed as Commissioner my intention is to fully include consumer aspects as cross-cutting issues in EU policy making and to shape the EU consumer agenda in its next phase. I will be over the next 5 years the voice of citizens concerns. This is a horizontal issue that affects every portfolio. Consumers expect the European Union to help them to buy easily cross-border both on- and offline, protect and enforce their rights and ensure fair competition through market surveillance so that consumers get the best deal.

My main objective will be to ensure trust of EU consumers: trust in the information and the tools to exercise their rights; trust that only safe products are on offer; trust that their authorities are safeguarding markets so that they can play their role as economic actors.

One important aspect to build on is how consumer policy can contribute to our jobs and growth agenda. With consumer expenditure representing 56% of the EU GDP, consumers have the power to move markets.

To improve consumer choice information and awareness building tools and campaigns remain key. If confirmed as Commissioner in charge of consumer policy I will put our tools to the test to see whether we provide consumers with clear, easy to understand information. I will work closely with the European Parliament and consumer organisations on this in the EU.

How do you see the state of play regarding the market surveillance and product safety package?

My intention is to play my role as honest broker in order to overcome the current stalemate in the Council so that this important package can finally be adopted. This proposal is about modernising current rules and reducing administrative burden while also addressing current market needs. It serves many of our priorities for the next years such as addressing the on-line challenge in the internal market, maintaining the EU as a safety champion in global trade and presenting better regulations.

I will engage with stakeholders and with Member States to understand the concerns and will try to contribute to finding a solution.

New market developments in the digital sphere, such as the data-driven economy and the emergence of shared economy services, have raised important further challenges for consumer protection. How do you intend to address those?

Dynamic market and technological developments are generally welcome. Innovative solutions can help consumers save time and money and generate business opportunities and economic growth. At the same time we need to make sure consumers are not misled and abused when using new technologies. We also need to safeguard the particular needs of the most vulnerable in the digital markets, the children or the elderly. This is essential if consumers are to maintain trust in the digital economy. My overall objective is to create a level playing field where all companies offering their goods or digital services in the EU are subject to the same strong data protection and consumer rules, regardless of where their server is based.

My top priority will be to swiftly conclude negotiations on common European data protection rules. We will also need legislation to modernise and simplify consumer rules for online and digital purchases and to advance the work done by the Commission and the European Parliament on a modern and consumer-friendly contract law Regulation, notably for the digital environment. For example, I also want to ensure that consumers can access services, music, movies and sports events on their electronic devices wherever they are in Europe and regardless of borders.

Business models such as the "sharing economy" raise questions concerning the responsibilities of internet and telecom intermediaries. These players may or may not be a direct party to the contract with consumers: but it is important that accountability towards consumers is built in the system. I will work closely with the network of national enforcement authorities to share experiences about the consumer issues related to such models and to define a common approach that applies across the EU.

I will liaise closely with Vice-President Ansip and coordinate with Commissioner Oettinger on these issues to ensure a coherent approach in the different EU policies involved.

Which further measures do you envisage in order to achieve effective enforcement and redress for consumers and compliant businesses apart from the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms?

Enforcement will be one of my top priorities. It is important that consumer protection legislation is equally applied and enforced throughout the Union: not only to tackle actual infringements and avoid market fragmentation but also to provide a deterrent effect and prevent new infringements. This question will be at the heart of the review of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation. I want to work closely with consumer organisations and industry to make sure that the enforcement solutions we are proposing are fast, efficient and EU-wide.

I will follow-up on the Commission Recommendation on collective redress. Member States have started to put in practice the principles set out in the Recommendation. Once the implementation period mentioned in the Recommendation is over, I will launch a detailed assessment of these national measures to verify that they are in line with the objectives of the Recommendation. Following this assessment, the College will be in a position to decide if further action is needed.

I will encourage swift adoption of the revised Small Claims Regulation. Europe's consumers and SMEs deserve a low-cost and modernized procedure to ensure effective access to justice for cross-border small claims. Without such a mechanism they are simply deterred from pursuing such claims and access to justice is denied.

I will also safeguard the right of consumers to go to court in their home country and to benefit from the protection of the laws of their home country. With I will closely monitor the implementation of the recent revision of the Brussels I Regulation so as to ensure that it delivers easy access to justice close to home.

4. Smart regulation

How will you improve impact assessments, both ex ante and ex post, in order to ensure a holistic and balanced assessment of new legislative proposals and existing legislation in the area of consumer protection? In particular, how will you ensure that they are evidence-based and are based on enhanced and improved SME and internal market tests?

The President-elect has made clear that Better Regulation is a priority of the new Commission. Consumer protection is by definition a horizontal area which has an impact on a huge range of citizens and businesses, and full assessment of the impact of different options will be critical to future development of the policy.

As regards existing legislation, I am committed to the ambitious target set for regulatory simplification in the previous Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT), to achieve, in collaboration with Vice-President Timmermans, a simple, clear and predictable regulatory framework for businesses and consumers. At the same time I will ensure that the objective of the best quality EU Regulation does not lead to an unintended reduction of essential consumer protection.

In the field of consumer policy, I will make sure that the rules are easy to understand and to implement. I intend to take forward the announced REFIT evaluation of existing legislation, including for example the Timeshare Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive, which recently became applicable, the Consumer Sales and Guarantees Directive, the Unfair Contract Terms Directive, and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. On the basis of the result we should look at how best to simplify and consolidate these rules.

One very important tool in my work will also be the use of evidence collected for a solid, evidence based and forward looking policy making. Data collected from instrument such as the Markets or Consumer Conditions Scoreboard can offer valid input for the regulator's work. I also intend to ensure that the Commission's services make full use of impact assessments when preparing new legislation falling under my responsibility, carefully considering the likely effects of a given policy initiative on consumers, SMEs and microenterprises.

Prior to launching any initiative, I will ensure timely consultation of all stakeholders concerned, including relevant business and consumer organisations. The effects of a given policy initiative on SMEs and microenterprises will be carefully considered, to avoid excessive burden. Finally, in line with President-elect Mr Juncker's political guidelines and in coordination with the Commissioners in charge of the relevant EU policies, I will give priority to initiatives that could contribute to the creation of a connected digital single market.

How would you propose to improve the pre-legislative involvement of parliamentary committees, in particular with regard to legislative initiatives taken under Article 225 TFEU? What measures will you take to ensure that full and proper stakeholder consultations are carried out with a view to ensuring regulations are fit for growth, employment creation, innovation and competitiveness?

The President-elect has already underlined that Parliament's legislative reports should receive the highest level of attention. I fully share the President-elect's commitment.

Stakeholder consultations are at the core of better regulation and central to ensuring that proposals meet our goals and can have an impact. The steps taken in recent years to help focus stakeholders through roadmaps and to give more time to consultations should be consolidated. Consultation is not only a Treaty obligation. I am convinced that it leads to higher quality proposals and to real impact on the ground.

How will you ensure better enforcement and implementation of consumer rights and make sure Member States fulfil their commitments?

First, timely and correct implementation of EU law by the Member States is essential. The transposition of the recent Consumer Rights' Directive will be a first test in that regard. In case of inadequate transposition or implementation of EU provisions, and if dialogue with Member States fails to produce conformity with EU law,, I will not hesitate to launch infringement proceedings.

Second, we need a new deal on how we work with Member States' authorities on effective enforcement. For instance, some cases are much more efficiently tackled by rapid interventions at EU level rather than individual national actions. We will have to look at the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) framework in that regard so that we enable joint enforcement actions coordinated by the Commission on issues of common interest across the EU.

Third, consumers need to have the full knowledge about their rights and the necessary tools at their disposal to exercise them. This is about the right to choose.

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