MEPs vote to empower vulnerable consumers
Members of the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection (Imco) committee reached an agreement yesterday (15 October) on a wide-ranging EU policy programme aimed at strengthening consumer organisations and promoting price comparison websites.
The EU's Consumer Programme, which covers the period 2014-2020, will support actions in the fields of product safety, consumer information and education, redress and enforcement.
MEPs have ensured that the new programme will pay special attention to vulnerable consumers, like elderly people or minors, who are less likely to fully understand and exercise their rights as consumers.
"In our society, where the wealth of information available can ultimately overwhelm us, we felt it was essential to provide consumers with the means to better compare not only the price, but also the quality of goods and services. In this context, I welcome the principle of encouraging the development of reliable comparison websites," said French rapporteur from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Robert Rochefort after the deal was reached.
MEPs also sought to ensure that EU level consumer organisations get support from the Consumer Programme, as they are seen as playing an important role in assisting consumers, thereby increasing confidence, and making the internal market work better.
The measures also include a proposal to set up an online portal for consumer groups, which would help to promote the exchange of good practice and expertise by freely sharing available training material.
The new rules will also allow the funding of comparison websites to facilitate consumers' access to reliable, comparable and easily accessible information on prices and quality of goods or services.
EU lawmakers say this tool could make consumers more independent and better informed by allowing them to compare product data, including across borders.
The EU has several initiatives aimed at extending consumers' rights across borders. Amongst those being reviewed are the Consumer Programme 2014-2020 and the Consumer Agenda.
The EU executive in November 2011 tabled a proposal for Consumer Programme 2014-2020 with four main goals: to improve product safety through monitoring and enforcement; expanding public awareness campaigns on consumer rights; ensuring that EU consumers have a common set of rights, such as the right to receive product information and guarantees; better enforcement of consumer laws by EU and national authorities.