Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection Christine Lambrecht stated:
The economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic will require consumers to have confidence in providers, platforms and products. We will make sure that the goods and services we know from the “analogue” world are also safe in the world of e-commerce. And we will take stronger action against unfair business practices on online platforms. Furthermore, we will strengthen cooperation between Member States and EU institutions, ensuring that consumers are able to assert their rights across European borders.
EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Didier Reynders:
The New Consumer Agenda aims to take EU consumer policy to a stronger level of protection. I am convinced that consumers will be key drivers of the recovery and of the green and digital transitions. The Agenda introduces measures that will promote a fair digital and green society, taking into account that consumer behaviour transcends borders of individual Member States. Our collective mission with all the Member States is now to fully equip consumers with all the necessary tools, so they can play their essential role in shaping tomorrow’s world.
The meeting focused on the EU Commission's New Consumer Agenda, which sets out a strategic approach to European consumer policy for the next five years. The Consumer Agenda covers the following five key priority areas:
- Green transition
- Digital transformation
- Effective enforcement of consumer rights
- Specific needs of certain consumer groups
- International cooperation
Following a presentation of the Agenda by Commissioner Didier Reynders, the Chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, Anna Cavazzini, outlined the position of the European Parliament.
The strategic approach of the New Consumer Agenda and its proposed action points were welcomed and discussed by the Consumer Protection Ministers. With a view to ensuring that consumer policy is capable of withstanding future crises, the debate focused on the lessons learned so far from the COVID-19 pandemic. Other key discussion areas included the topics of sustainability and digitalisation, which represent core issues in the field of consumer protection. These were discussed mainly in relation to the sustainability goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, the Digital Services Act and the legal framework for artificial intelligence.
The Consumer Protection Ministers agreed on the following points in particular:
Decisive action against unfair business practices on online platforms. Consumers must receive exactly the same protection on online platforms as they do in the analogue world.
Consumers need reliable information (e.g. on carbon footprint, expected longevity and reparability of products) in order to make sustainable decisions. The reparability of products must be more vigorously promoted and more decisive action must be taken against greenwashing, i.e. misleading environmental claims about products.
To ensure that consumers can assert their rights across borders, cooperation between Member States and EU institutions should be strengthened.
In two lead-in presentations, the former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, and Dr Dennis Snower of the Hertie School provided valuable food for thought on the topics of sustainability and digital transformation.
The Portuguese Secretary of State João Torres also outlined the main priorities of Portugal’s upcoming Council Presidency. The Council conclusions on the New Consumer Agenda will be drawn up under the Portuguese Presidency.
More detailed information, as well as a fact sheet on the New Consumer Agenda, can be found here.