The recent adoption of the Enforcement Package by the European Commission marks a milestone in the enforcement of consumer rights, since the initiatives seek to secure the highest possible level of consumer protection which will, in turn, give consumers confidence to exploit the full potential of the Single Market.
The EU has developed a set of consumer rules, aiming for a strong, healthy and competitive Single Market, in which consumers can confidently buy goods and services within the EU, but rules on their own are not enough – they must be applied properly in practice if we want them to deliver tangible results for citizens, and that is why enforcement matters.
This Enforcement Package consists of a Communication and a Report on the first two years of application of the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Regulation 1, which established an EU wide network of public authorities enforcing consumer rules in the Member States (CPC Network).
Based on an analysis of the state of play and of what has been achieved so far, the Communication takes stock of consumer enforcement action and aims to identify the main challenges that need to be overcome to ensure more effective enforcement of EU consumer law. The Communication also identifies five priority areas with accompanying actions to improve enforcement, thereby delivering to EU consumers the highest possible level of consumer protection without increasing the administrative burden on companies.
The Commission's Biennal Report is based on national reports from Member States, statistical data extracted from the IT-tool used by the CPC Network and the practical experience gained through the coordination of the Network's first joint enforcement actions, the EU-sweeps. It is the first such report adopted by the Commission and covers the years 2007 and 2008. It shows that the new CPC instrument is fulfilling its purpose, but it also indicates that more work is still needed to increase the Network's efficiency.
The European Commission does not have direct enforcement powers vis-à-vis traders in enforcing consumer laws. This is the prerogative of Member States. However, given the emergence of new factors such as e-commerce, enlargement of the Single Market and the increased globalisation of trade in goods and services, enforcement can no longer be seen as confined to national boundaries.
In this context, the Commission has a unique pan-European vantage point which can bring added value to an effective, coherent and optimal enforcement policy in the EU.