This week, a first exchange of views on the controversial Commission proposal on EU Consumer Rights took place in the European Parliament. If the Commission had its way, the 27 different national regulations on consumer protection should be replaced by a uniform EU Consumer Right. National rules, which are more advantageous for consumers, could fall by the wayside as a result.
The radical proposal of the Commission promptly attracted cross-party criticism: MEP Kurt Lechner of the European People’s Party, as well as the socialist MEP Evelyne Gebhardt pointed out that the European Parliament had already agreed on a mixed approach. Thus only parts of the Consumer Right should be uniformly regulated throughout the EU; the rest should continue to be subject to national rules.

The parties, however, have different ideas as to how far harmonisation should go. Apart from uniform term definitions, Lechner can imagine common rules for revocation; other MEPs do not want to go that far and warn of the consequences of full harmonisation. Gebhardt was disappointed that package holidays and digital results were not included in the proposal. She furthermore mentioned that although the same right could exist, one had to consider a different legal culture in many cases.

The Danish MEP Morten Messerschmidt of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Party comes out in favour of a minimum harmonisation; existing rights should not change for the worse. Although the socialist MEP Barbara Weiler harbours doubts with regard to full harmonisation, she draws attention to the case of consumer credits, where full harmonisation had been successful. The only MEP to be absolutely happy with the Directive proposal was Edvard Kozusnik of the European Conservatives, who sees a better regulation in the Commission proposal. Unfortunately, there was currently no efficient internal market.

The responsible Commission official Jacqueline Minor declared right at the start that the matter would not only concern consumers, but also the internal market. A secure legal environment was required; 27 different legal systems would be a problem for small and medium-sized companies. Consumers should receive a high level of protection. Consumers should be able to benefit from price differences, which existed in various countries. The Commission was currently working on additional explanations about the interaction with other Directives and national law. The Commission would believe that a fully harmonised Consumer Right had a positive impact on consumers.

The chairman of the committee, Malcolm Harbour announced that the rapporteur should be known in 2 weeks at the latest. There were also considerations on perhaps carrying out a hearing where experts from various sectors could present their point of view.

On the occasion of the 1st reading on the Consumer Rights in the European Parliament, AK EUROPA has organised a panel discussion to take place on 9 September in Brussels. It should be clarified among others whether the emphasis really lies on improving Consumer Rights for the benefit of consumers or whether the Commission only has the optimisation of the internal market in mind.

Further information:

AK Europa Event on the Consumer Right Directive

AK position on the Proposal for a Directive on Consumer Rights