Consumer policy is a key focus in the next stage of the internal market. In both the Government programme and the EU consumer policy strategy in 2007-2013, business, competition, internal market and consumer policies are intertwined.
Private consumption accounts for 58% of GDP in the EU, so it is essential for economic growth. The internal market is still fragmented, however, and there is plenty of room for making it more efficient. Competitiveness and innovation can be spurred by giving priority to projects that support consumers' needs and confidence. Clarify rules without lowering the level of protection is important for businesses and consumers alike.
Consumer policy is cross-cutting by nature and decisions that affect consumers' position are made in practically every administrative sector. Consequently attention must be paid to consumers' interests and the effects of decisions on consumers' position in all decision-making, according to EU legislation including the founding treaty.
Consumer policy programmes offer practical assistance by defining common objectives and focuses for decision-making in different administrative sectors. Finland's present Consumer Policy Programme will conclude at the end of this year. The Government programme calls for the preparation of a new Consumer Policy Programme, taking into consideration the EU's new consumer policy strategy.
The three main objectives of the EU's consumer policy strategy are:
- To empower EU consumers. Putting consumers in the driving seat benefits citizens but also boosts competition significantly. Empowered consumers need real choices, accurate information, market transparency and the confidence that comes from effective protection and solid rights.
- To enhance EU consumers' welfare in terms of price, choice, quality, diversity, affordability and safety. Consumer welfare is at the heart of well-functioning markets.
- To protect consumers effectively from the serious risks and threats that they cannot tackle as individuals. A high level of protection against these threats is essential to consumer confidence.
To attain these objectives, EU consumer policy will focus on the following priority areas:
- Better monitoring of consumer policies. Tools are needed to monitor markets in terms of core outcomes such as safety, satisfaction, price and complaints. Consumer and competition policymakers and enforcers should cooperate more closely.
- Better consumer protection regulation. First of all individual directives approved at different times need to be harmonized and updated. Secondly basic rights need to be adapted to the new digital economy. The Commission also wants consumer policy to be a model of better regulation and consequently will carry out an impact assessment of any legislative proposals.
- Better enforcement and redress. Consumers should be able to purchase products from shops or online anywhere in the EU and trust that consumer protection is equally effective all over. Different legislative, institutional and administrative measures must be effectively enforced and different actors must cooperate in a way that benefits both consumers and businesses.
- Better informed and educated consumers.
- Putting consumers at the heart of other EU policies and regulation. Consumers are directly affected by many EU policies such as the internal market, enterprise, environment, financial services, transport, competition, energy and trade. It is important to protect the position of vulnerable consumers particularly in developing basic services. Affordable access to services of general interest must be ensured. The issue of horizontal consumer rights will be addressed in this area.
Although the consumer policy section of the Government programme is quite brief, the programme contains several projects that are significant for consumer's position.
In communications policy the Finnish Government will promote citizens' confidence in everyday information society services and will pay special attention to children's and young people's security in a digital environment. Public services will be developed with the help of an orderer-producer model, service vouchers and the monitoring of quality. In business policy emphasis will be placed on improving enterprises' expertise.
Consumer viewpoints have also been included in programmes in other policy areas dealing with such things as housing, children and young people, the information society and better regulation.
Effectiveness and better operating conditions for consumer policy will also be promoted through administrative projects such as the establishment of the Ministry of Employment and Industries, the reform of regional administration and the development of the Market Court.
EU Consumer Policy strategy 2007-2013