Contribution of the Committee of the Regions to the EU Consumer Policy by highlighting the need to involve the local and regional authorities in the implementation process and attribute relevant funds for this to take place.
Adopted in June 2013, the EP resolution on the European Consumer Agenda, converges on a number of points with the CoR opinion. The local and regional authorities in Europe emphasised that "the rapid development of e-commerce is of vital importance to consumers as it offers them greater choice, particularly people living in inaccessible, very remote or outlying regions, as well as those with reduced mobility who would not otherwise have access to a wide range of choice". The Parliament uses rather strikingly similar language in its point 32 where it "stresses that the increasingly rapid development of e-commerce is of major importance as far as consumers are concerned, offering a wider choice, especially to those living in less accessible, remote or outlying areas, as well as those with reduced mobility, who would otherwise not have access to a wide choice of goods". The CoR in its opinion calls for he for close cooperation "between European, national, regional and local authorities in implementing the measures" (point 22) whereas the Parliament "highlights the need for close cooperation between European, national and local authorities and consumer associations in order to establish consultation mechanisms and implement the measures planned in the Agenda" . Both reports put emphasis on the issue of traceability of goods; the CoR argues it helps the consumers to assess real value for money (point26) and the EP links it to domestic and cross-border e-commerce and fight against criminal or unfair practices (point 35). Finally, the CoR touches upon the question of household over-indebtedness and call on the Commission to propose measures ensuring responsible use of loans and helping to mitigate the effects of excessive household debts. The parliamentary resolution "underlines the need for a comprehensive legal framework ensuring independent advice for consumers, especially in the field of financial services and (…) highlights the need to protect consumers who are ‘trapped’ by a financial product".
THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- is convinced that consumer policy can help the EU to exit the crisis more quickly: more aware consumers are a precondition for safe, high-quality, competitive products and services, contributing to sustainable economic recovery;
and calls on the European Commission to
- equip local and regional authorities with the right tools to defend consumer rights to the maximum of their powers;
- cooperate closely with national, regional and local authorities. More specifically, even if the agenda's actions are of a type implying implementation mainly by EU and national bodies, local authorities have an important role to play since they speak on behalf of local communities and are in a position to make an effective contribution to putting such measures into practice;
- remember that local authorities are themselves consumers of products and services, and that they therefore need and demand a secure framework within which to protect their interests and those of the local communities they represent and that often contribute to their budgets;
- recognise that empowering consumers also involves educating them, and that local and regional authorities and civil society need to be involved in consumer information campaigns;
- reinforce supervisory mechanisms in regions with permanent geographic or demographic handicaps, through the provision of resources and know-how.