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Consumer policy as an essential contribution to Europe 2020

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Consumer expenditure accounts for 56 % of EU GDP and is essential to meeting the Europe 2020 objective of smart, inclusive and sustainable growth. Stimulating this demand can play a major role in bringing the EU out of the crisis.

To make this possible, the potential of the Single Market must be realised. Data show that consumers shopping online across the EU have up to 16 times more products from which to choose, but 60 % of consumers do not yet use this retail channel. As a result of this reluctance, they do not fully benefit from the variety of choice and price differences available in the Single Market. Improving consumer confidence in cross-border shopping online by taking appropriate policy action could provide a major boost to economic growth in Europe.

Empowered and confident consumers can drive forward the European economy.

Well designed and implemented consumer policies with a European dimension can enable consumers to make informed choices that reward competition, and support the goal of sustainable and resource-efficient growth, whilst taking account of the needs of all consumers.

This European Consumer Agenda identifies the key measures needed now to empower consumers and boost their trust. It sets out measures to put consumers at the heart of all EU policies as means to achieve the Europe 2020 goals.1 It builds on and complements other initiatives, such as the EU Citizenship Report, the Single Market Act, the Digital Agenda for Europe, the E-commerce Communication and the Resource Efficiency Roadmap.2 In the field of research and innovation, it draws on initiatives under Horizon 2020 to deepen scientific understanding of consumer behaviour and the health, safety and sustainability aspects of the choices they face.3

Empowering consumers means providing a robust framework of principles and tools that enable them to drive a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. Empowered consumers who can rely on a robust framework ensuring their safety, information, education, rights, means of redress and enforcement, can actively participate in the market and make it work for them by exercising their power of choice and by having their rights properly enforced.

In line with the Treaty (Article 12 TFEU) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 38), the Agenda develops a systematic approach to integrating consumer interests into all relevant policies and puts a special emphasis on tackling problems faced by today’s consumers in the food chain, energy, transport, digital and financial services sectors.4 It builds on the high level of consumer protection already achieved and the progress made in creating a European Area of Justice5 by enhancing the role that judges, legal practitioners and enforcement authorities can play, including across borders.

 

1 ‘Confident consumers create thriving markets. Building on this autumn’s work, the next work programme will announce measures to strengthen consumer rights, including in electronic and cross-border transactions and effectively address health and safety-related matters, thus improving citizens’ security, while underpinning demand in the Single Market.’ See letter of President Barroso to President Buzek, September 2011.

2 EU Citizenship Report COM(2010) 603 final; Single Market Act COM(2011) 206 final; A Digital Agenda for Europe COM(2010) 245 final/2; E-commerce Communication COM(2011) 942; Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe COM(2011) 571 final.

3 Proposal for a Regulation establishing the EU framework programme for research and innovation (COM(2011) 809 final).

4 These sectors were identified as some of the most problematic for consumers, according to the Consumer Markets Scoreboard.

5 See ‘Delivering an area of freedom, security and justice for Europe’s citizens — Action Plan Implementing the Stockholm Programme’ COM(2010) 171.

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