Greening Europeans’ consumption patterns with a New Consumer Agenda

1. The Green Transition

85% of EU consumers would welcome better information on the durability of a good when deciding on a purchase. Thanks to the New Agenda, consumers will access more sustainable products will a longer lifespan and better reparability options, without fearing greenwashing. The Green Deal and the Renovation Wave are linchpins of this objective.

2. The Digital Transformation

As more and more citizens buy products and services online (grocery shopping and streaming services have boomed during the confinement periods), consumers must be as well protected online as they were in the offline world. People need to be better educated and aware of online fraud, including public health fraud. COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns have stressed the fragility of some people to online scams, dark patterns and hidden advertising, often performed by bots. In some instances, AI is demonstrating some bias that needs to be overturned. The EC foresees a horizontal legal act on requirements for AI in 2021. The EC will also review the General Product Safety Directive to address the new safety challenging stemming from new technologies and purchases made from sellers located outside the EU next year. Besides, the EC will update the guidance documents on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive by 2022.

3. Enforcement and redress

The EC wants to make sure that consumer rights are well known and enforced evenly everywhere. Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, was right in underlying that lack of enforcement is “the Achilles heel of EU and national consumer policy”.

4. Address vulnerability and the needs of particular groups

Older people, children, people with disabilities or with unbearable debts are facing additional difficulties in accessing products, services and information offered online. To fill up that gap, the EC will encourage local initiatives from the social economy, which provide offline and tailored information and advice (2021). (Find more about this issue in this article written with the ESRC Just Energy project)

5. The Global context

As more and more purchases come from sellers based outside the EU (27% in 2019 vs 17% in 2014), the EC wants to ensure that when European consumers buy from abroad, the product they receive is safe and compliant. Indeed, the EC found that in 2019, 64% of alerts in Safety Gate/RAPEX concerned products made outside of the EEA, often in China. An action plan with China will be set up in 2021, while the EU will keep the focus on its trade policy agreements and partnerships. Starting next year, the EC will also offer regulatory support, technical assistance and capacity building to EU partner countries.

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Marine Cornelis

Marine Cornelis

Founder of NextEnergyConsumer. Working on the social aspects of the energy and climate transitions