The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), a consultative body of the EU, called for new collaborative opportunities for consumers and businesses within the single market.
Collaborative consumption, such as car-sharing, room rental, and digital communities for learning languages, represents great alternatives in times of crisis, according to the EESC.
Therefore, the EU should identify barriers to these activities, regulate practice within these forms of consumption and also set up a database to pool experience.
Bernardo Hernández Bataller, the EESC member who drafted the report, said that there was a clear need for the EU to raise awareness about collaborative consumption.
"Collaborative consumption can meet social needs in situations where there is no commercial interest and it can help, as a for-profit activity, to create jobs," he said.
The EESC noted that consumers sometimes purchase products they do not use often enough to justify the price they paid, but collaborative consumption is an alternative to last century's over-consumption which has lead to inequality and unnatural extremes such as obesity and hunger, as well as waste and precariousness.
The benefits of collaborative consumption are among other things access to high-quality products for lower-income groups, lower resource consumption and CO2 emissions, eco-design and community development.
"Moving towards more rational consumption also addresses market dysfunctions such as built-in obsolescence, since many designers in the field of collaborative consumption base their work on the development of hard-wearing products that can be used by many people or last individual consumers or users a lifetime, which also makes them powerful allies in the war on waste," the EESC said in a press release.
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.
- European Commission: EU Budget 2014-2020: Commission unveils new and ambitious Health and Consumer Programmes
- European Commission: Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on consumer programme 2014-2020
- European Commission: Health and Consumers
- European Economic and Social Committee (EESC): Collaborative consumption: new opportunities for consumers and businesses on the EU market