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The challenges of the new CONSUMER Programme

On the 1st and 2nd of April took place the 2014 Consumer Summit which brought together some 400 participants representing the European Parliament, the Commission, national governments, consumer and business associations.

The summit focused on the urgent need for an integrated single digital and telecoms market, benefitting consumers and companies.

The objectives of the European consumer policy seem to be close to citizens by interesting itself in their concerns and needs. One of the aims is to restore people’s trust into the Internal Market, as evidenced by the new Consumer programme 2014-2020.

The new programme follows the 2007-2013 programme and it will maintain the most efficacious and fruitful elements of the old one. Not for nothing we can paint a very flattering picture of the actions undertaken under the previous programming period. In fact, amongst the projects funded we can find enforcement cooperation actions across the EU, educational projects such as the Consumer Classroom and development of the Online Dispute Resolution platform. However, the 2014-2020 programme takes into account new societal challenges, such as the complexity of decision making, the need to move towards more sustainable forms of consumption, the challenges brought by the development of digitalisation, and the specific requests of weaker consumers.

Every citizen in Europe is a consumer and it is clear that a consumer is a key stakeholder in Europe’s economy and the Single Market. The more consumers are able to make informed decisions, the greater impact they can have on stimulating growth.
For this reason the new Consumer Programme is in consonance with the Europe 2020 Strategy which sets the digital agenda, sustainable growth, social inclusion and smart regulation among its objectives and priorities.

Taking a more detailed look at this programme, we can see 4 thematic areas:

Safety: there is a need to reinforce coordination of national enforcement authorities, and to address the risks linked to the globalization of the production chain.
Consumer information and education: comparable, consistent and accessible information for consumers is a necessity; to address the issue of poor knowledge of key consumer rights by consumers and retailers alike.
Consumer rights and effective redress: the programme aims to strengthen consumer rights, in particular in cross-border situations, and to address problems faced by consumers when trying to secure redress.
Strengthening enforcement cross-border: the objective is to increase awareness about the network of European Consumer Centres among consumers and to further strengthen its effectiveness. The efficiency of the network of national enforcement authorities also needs to be strengthened.

Direct beneficiaries will be national authorities in charge of consumer policy, safety and enforcement; the network of European Consumer Centres; EU-level consumer organisations; and national consumer organisations. The final beneficiaries will be the EU consumers. They will benefit from strengthened consumer organisation, advice of the European Consumers Centres and enforcement actions undertaken by the authorities that would otherwise not take place due to limited resources.

The new programme will fund actions across all 28 European Union Member States and countries of the European Free Trade Association participating in the European Economic Area.

Today, the programme that has just come into force has a budget of 188.8 million of euro, which represents an increase compared to the old program.


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