Empowering European consumers

22.02.2014 - 09:00

The European single market benefits business and consumers alike, offering consumers a wide choice of products with very high safety standards and better value for money. The EPP Group has ensured that consumers enjoy the same rights and protection levels all over Europe - whether they shop just around the corner or buy their products online. This way, European citizens can fully benefit from the advantages of our internal market.

The EPP Group has been the driving force in strengthening rights for consumers, in ensuring the highest respect for product safety standards through enhanced surveillance of markets and in developing simple and cheap conflict resolution systems.

1 - Upgraded rights for consumers online and on the high street 

  • Buy safely where you want: Thanks to new consumer rights rules negotiated by the EPP Group and adopted with great support in June 2011, consumers now benefit from a high level of protection all over the EU, especially when shopping on the internet.
  • Enhanced guarantees for consumers: Online and distance sellers (e.g. goods ordered by mail or telephone) must provide precise information before the sale on the total price (incl. charges and fees), the goods ordered and the contact details of the trader. Even after signing the order form, you can still change your mind and cancel within 14 days. And if the product you receive does not correspond to the order or is faulty, you can return it, have it replaced or alternatively, ask for a complete refund.
  • Boosting cross-border online trade: Cross-border online shopping is growing in importance in Europe, with 60 per cent of consumers purchasing goods and services on the internet in 2010. The new rules also give more certainty to business and will cut down the barriers still keeping companies within national borders, thereby boosting cross-border online trade, enhancing consumer choice and access to competitive goods and services.

2 - Safer food and consumer goods 

  • Quick detection and withdrawal of unsafe products: EU countries have among the highest safety standards in the world - toys, cosmetics and electrical equipment have to adhere to additional safety requirements. But the best law is no help if it is not properly enforced. To make sure that unsafe products from outside the EU are discovered and rapidly removed, the EPP Group strongly supported a new framework to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the monitoring of all products on sale in the EU. If a dangerous product is found in any EU country today, a rapid alert system called “RAPEX” (Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products) ensures that the dangerous product is removed quickly from shelves across Europe. And the same goes for food products, where a similar system called “RASFF” (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) is in place.
  • Safety standards for baby sleep products: Higher standards were adopted at the end of 2009 to improve the safety of articles used in children's sleeping environment such as cot mattresses, cot bumpers, suspended baby beds, children's duvets and sleeping bags.
  • Food safety and protection of the most vulnerable consumers: The EPP Group has played a major role over the last few years in improving the labelling of food packages, harmonising the requirements for infant food and better empowering consumers against misleading information. Following the horse meat scandal, the EPP Group has pushed for enhanced controls, increased focus on national inspections, enforcement of EU legislation and stricter penalties, and called for triple country-of-origin labelling for processed meat: place of birth, place of breeding and place of slaughter.

3 - Easy dispute-solving at lower cost

  • Online and alternative dispute resolution: The EPP Group has played a major role in establishing simple, fast and low-cost ways of settling disputes between consumers and traders without having to go to court, e.g. when a trader refuses to repair a product or to make a refund to which a consumer is entitled. Now consumers can turn to quality out-of-court entities (alternative dispute resolution) or even do it fully online (online dispute resolution) for online purchases and when the consumer and the trader are located far from each other. This represents a major step forward for EU consumers, but also for traders who will be able to maintain good relations with customers and avoid litigation costs. 


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