Consumer shield to be integral element of economic recovery

The Commission works on improving protection for those disproportionately affected by Covid-19

Photo: EP Didier Reynders.

At the end of November the EU will have very strong Consumer Agenda and the Commission is now actively working on it, EU  Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told MEPs from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) during their discussion on strengthening of consumer protection, led by the Committee Chair Petra De Sutter (Greens/EFA, BE). 

Taking into account the new realities that the pandemic created, the executive envisages a comprehensive approach to the topic with focus on empowering consumers in the green and digital transitions, the two main goals of the Commission that remain also in the recovery stage. The priorities identified before the crisis are even more valid in the post-Covid-19 context, he opined.

I will be looking into how to improve protection for consumers disproportionately affected by coronavirus pandemic, because of the socio-economic conditions, factors such as over indebtedness, limited digital literacy or geographical remoteness, Commissioner Reynders said noting that there is a need for ensuring very clear responsibilities and better information for consumers, including fighting false information. Consumers should feel safe and reassured about their rights, and consumer protection should be an integral component of the economic recovery.

The commissioner also promised that besides the full respect for consumer rights the new Consumer Agenda will avoid undue burden on the economic operators. The recovery will depend on the confidence of consumers and their private spending, he said giving example that the consumption expenditure is 54% of the total GDP in the EU.

The Justice Commissioner emphasised also that the EU in all consumer policies should be ready to efficiently manage any further disruptions of a similar magnitude to the Covid-19 crisis.

Cooperation inside the EU is important, because no country or institution alone can cope with problems of such seriousness and complexity, he stated highlighting that closest attention should be paid at the EU and national levels to vulnerability of consumers not only due to economic trends, but in the context of Covid-19 pandemic.

During the discussion many MEPs raised again the issue about the short lifecycle of products, on need to ban built in obsolescence and improve reparability of products. The Commissioner told MEPs that these topics will be an important part of the circular economy and the consumer agenda. Some lawmakers expressed their concern that various green transition and circular economy legislative files have been postponed for the end of next year, asserting that sustainable product design should and key in the green deal and recovery.

What has been done to better protect consumers from scams and to avoid that unsafe and dangerous products to enter the single market was also asked by the lawmakers. Others insisted again about action from then Commission on the refunds for consumers for travel and for clear labelling of foods, produced in the EU. Among the discussed topics were as well artificial intelligence, consumer trust in the single market, due diligence duties and common chargers.

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