EU launches ‘New Deal for Consumers’ to adapt to digital marketplaces

EU launches ‘New Deal for Consumers’ to adapt to digital marketplaces
European Commissioner Věra Jourová © Annika Haas

The European Commission has proposed a ‘New Deal for Consumers’ to reinforce the rights and protections offered to consumers throughout the bloc.

The ‘New Deal for Consumers’ seeks to further strengthen the EU’s consumer rights regulations, which are already among the strongest in the world. It was prepared in response to a number of recent concerns, including Dieselgate and the rise of dual food quality, which highlighted ways in which current legislation is difficult to implement.

The commission aims to address this by giving consumer authorities to take action on behalf of consumers through stronger sanctioning powers, among other efforts. This will also involve increased transparency in online market places and in search results on online platforms.

What has the commission said about the deal?

Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said that internet and globalisation have greatly increased the power that companies hold around the world. She argued that consumer protections also needed to scale.

Jourová explained: “In a globalised world where the big companies have a huge advantage over individual consumers we need to level the odds. Representative actions, in the European way, will bring more fairness to consumers… and with stronger sanctions linked to the annual turnover of a company, consumer authorities will finally get teeth to punish the cheaters.”

How have stakeholders responded?

Some measures have also been welcomed by the industry, including a regulation which would allow more flexibility in how sellers communicate with consumers. However, some elements, such as an expansion of the scope of the Consumer Rights Directive, are also of concern.

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, of DIGITALEUROPE, welcomed the attempt to improve and adapt consumer rules for the digital age, but also warned that a balance needs to be struck to ensure that legitimate business is not negatively affected.

She said: “EU citizens already benefit from a strong framework of consumer rules, and we always encourage policymakers to take stock and make use of the existing rules before proposing new ones, which must be based on the evidence that current practices really hamper consumers or society as a whole. European SMEs already struggle to gain scale and be competitive in the global digital economy, and regulators should also take stock of this.”

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