Shop Till You Drop! Consumer Protection in the EU

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Advancing in consumer protection

It all started in the US. Kennedy’s ideas on consumer protection.

As early as the 1960s, former President John F. Kennedy gave a widely acclaimed speech in which he shared his views and demands for consumer protection. He spoke of the consumer being “the largest subject of the economy,” but also being the only important group which is not organized efficiently and whose views are often not heard.

In his speech on consumer protection, Kennedy also presented three fundamental consumer rights:

  1. Security – the right to protect consumer safety and consumer rights against the commercialization of health or life-threatening goods.
  2. Information – the right to protect consumer safety and consumer rights against fraudulent, malicious or intentionally misleading information.
  3. Freedom of choice – the right to choose products and services at free market prices

The ideas of John F. Kennedy had a radiant effect into the European Union. Today, EU consumer policy is one of the most advanced in the world.

We are all consumers

Whether we like it or not, each one of us is a consumer. Even those who do not live in luxury, rely in everyday life on the regular consumption of certain goods. Whether it´s food or clothing, such things are essential for the most frugal of us. That we are consumers cannot be denied. However, not all of us understand ourselves as a consumer and knows his associated rights. The World Consumers Rights Day was launched in 1983 to strengthen awareness and give voice to consumer matters.

What is a consumer?

According to Section 13 of the Civil Code, a consumer is a “natural person who enters into a legal transaction for purposes which [may] be attributed to neither his commercial nor his independent professional activity.” Admittedly, this definition does not sound catchy. If you want to explain the term a little easier, you can say that a consumer is someone who buys a product or food and uses it or consumes it.

Consumer friendly EU regulations

We have are mandatory safety standards for many different goods and products, e.g. for toys, cosmetics or electronics. In particular online purchases are regulated consumer-friendly within the European single market. Moreover, we should not not forget our beloved Mobil phones. In 2017, the EU created uniform fee structures and abolish the expensive roaming charges. The Union prohibits unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices such as aggressive sales methods or misleading advertising. A further right is the fact that all Europeans who have purchased a product or service on the internet have a right of withdrawal. For a period of 14 days, they can cancel their purchases. The EU has also strengthened the rights of air passengers. In the event of cancellation, delayed arrival or being denied boarding (e.g. overbooking of the flight), they are entitled to reimbursement or alternative transport and, if necessary, compensation.

Heading for new challenges

The digital transformation, climate change or the impact of COVID-19

The European Union’s consumer protection policy has to face new challenges today. It must face up to the impacts of climate change, the digital transformation, and now also the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to reconciliate consumer interests with business interests. Another major challenge in the digital transformation is the regulation governing liability for digital platforms. How can we ensure that the products offered by these platforms actually conform to EU standards?

These are only some examples. If you want to be better  for future challenges, check and join one of our courses.

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