On Friday, the European Commission launched its New Consumer Agenda, setting out its plans for consumer policy from 2020 – 2025. This is a significant insight for stakeholders into the EU's strategic objectives over the next five years. Sustainability, new technologies, online sales and effective cross-border EU enforcement top the bill.
The Commission's agenda includes changes to how products are designed, labelled, marketed and sold online, as well as how the safety and compliance of products, and consumer rights and remedies, are enforced. Given the significance of these changes, we will follow up with more detailed commentary on the practical implications for product manufacturers. For now, here's our initial read of the key takeaways.
The Commission's objectives build on its New Deal for Consumers and focus on five key areas:
- Green transition.
The Commission wants to ensure that sustainable products, and the
environmental information necessary to be make informed choices,
are available to EU consumers. Alongside rolling out wider
requirements for ecodesign and right to repair, it plans to present
a proposal next year to address better information on products'
sustainability and target "greenwashing" (unsubstantiated
claims regarding the green credentials of products).
transformation. The Commission is looking at adapting
existing legislation and issuing guidance to ensure the EU regime
is fit for purpose, with plans to:
- tackle online commercial practices
that impede consumers' informed choices, abuse their
behavioural biases or distort their decision-making processes, such
as dark patterns and hidden advertising;
- ensure consumers' interests are
taken into account when setting rules governing the digital economy
and requirements for Artificial Intelligence; and
- adapt current rules to the ongoing
digitalisation and the increase of connected products, with a
review of the General Product Safety Directive.
- tackle online commercial practices that impede consumers' informed choices, abuse their behavioural biases or distort their decision-making processes, such as dark patterns and hidden advertising;
enforcement. The Commission wants to assist EU Member
States in the enforcement of consumer law. It is proposing
coordinated initiatives through the EU's Consumer Protection
Cooperation network and the development of a toolbox of
"innovative e-tools" to strengthen national
authorities' capacity to tackle illegal online commercial
practices, and to identify unsafe products. It also hopes that
consumer groups will play a part in enforcement – supported
by the EU's new Directive on Representative Actions, which will
allow them to bring cross-border actions for breaches of consumer
law and obtain injunctions and compensation on their behalf.
- Protecting vulnerable
consumers. The Commission recognises that the digital
transformation may pose challenges for the elderly and those with
disabilities. The EU's Accessibility Act, due to be implemented
by 2025, will seek to improve the accessibility of digital products
in the EU. In the meantime, the Commission also plans to carry out
a review of the existing safety standards applicable to childcare
products to ensure that children are protected adequately.
- Online sales and international cooperation. The Commission continues to set its sights on the safety of products sold online. It plans to cooperate with China to develop an Action Plan in 2021 and expects to develop similar plans with other regional partners, including in Africa.
The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee is due to debate the New Consumer Agenda on Thursday. Some of the planned initiatives (for example on the Circular Economy) are already underway – others will follow early next year. Follow Productwise for more updates.
- You can read our blogs on the EU's New Deal for Consumers, Representative Actions and Accessibility Act. We've also blogged on substantiating green claims and the blog and recording from our recent webinar on the EU's Circular Economy Action Plan is available here.
Originally Published by Cooley, November 2020
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