EU consumer information 'needs to keep pace with change'

01st April 2014 - Fine Cut

It is important that consumer information and labelling within the European Union (EU) keeps pace with the rate of change, particularly in certain industries such as energy and telecommunications.

This is according to a memo from the European Commission, which stated the details provided to customers should respond to disruptions resulting from the economic crisis, changes in shopping behaviour, liberalisation of markets and digital services, among others.

Relating to the Consumer Programme 2014-2020, the note explained the main challenges the scheme is addressing are safety, consumer information and education, consumer rights and effective redress, and strengthening cross-border enforcement.

The commission pointed out that "well-informed and knowledgeable consumers can drive innovation and growth by demanding value, quality and service".

Under the heading 'consumer information and education', the EU executive stated: "There is a need for comparable, reliable and user-friendly information for consumers - particularly cross-border - to address the issue of poor knowledge of key consumer rights by consumers and retailers alike."

In addition, the Brussels memo pointed to beneficiaries of the programme, which include consumer centres and organisations in the EU, as well as safety regulators and enforcement agencies.

The questions and answers-style document explained that consumer spending is responsible for 56 per cent of the total gross domestic product of the EU and the Single Market covers more than 500 million consumers.

In related news, a new watchdog is being established for Irish consumers that is intended to provide a "one-stop shop" for all problems relating to products and services, including incorrect labelling.

The regulator, which is part of the new Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, will issue tougher penalties for violations of consumer law, the Irish Independent reports.

Irish jobs minister Richard Bruton has vowed the new watchdog will have "real teeth" and will take action against companies giving consumers the wrong information.

He explained the regulator will name companies that do this, which could improve labelling in the country.

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