The New Consumer Agenda (hereinafter “the Agenda”) published by the European Commission in November 2020 provides a consolidated view for Consumer Policy within EU member states for the next five years, 2020 to 2025. The Agenda sets out the means to protect consumers while also ensuring they can benefit from the single market and are enabled to participate in the green and digital transition.
The Agenda aims to boost trust among consumers, which in turn can help to stimulate economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. It takes a holistic approach to covering EU policies that are relevant to consumers, while complementing other EU initiatives in the areas of sustainability and digitalisation. The comprehensive approach has been welcomed as a key driver for sustainability and a digitally oriented society.
Consumers are increasingly concerned with the environmental impact and durability of the products they purchase. Furthermore, consumers show a growing interest in contributing personally to reducing negative environmental impacts by purchasing sustainable products.
The public consultation found that consumers often found a lack of reliable information as an obstacle to making sustainable consumption choices. As a result, the Agenda includes a number of proposals to improve the quantity and quality of information available. This will encompass the following:
An increasing proportion of consumers buy goods or services online, which has been accelerated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission notes that consumers completing their end-to-end journey online should be enabled to make informed choices and have their interests safeguarded. The objective of the Agenda is to protect consumer rights in the digital space and to ensure a level playing field, enabling innovation to deliver newer and better services.
The following is a high-level summary of the Commission’s digital transformation agenda:
The enforcement of consumer rights is the responsibility of national authorities, with the EU playing a coordinating and supporting role. From January 2020, the new Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation came into force which strengthens enforcement authorities’ online capacity, cooperation mechanisms and consistency across Member States. An assessment of the effectiveness of the Regulation will be completed by 2023.
The Commission will focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer rights, misleading claims regarding environmental impact and online customer journeys. It will address the Agenda on enforcement and redress through the following means:
The impact of COVID-19 has resulted in the growth of the number of customers entering vulnerable categories (e.g. elderly members of society who are cocooning), as well as exacerbating the impact on those already considered vulnerable (e.g. those suffering from mental health issues / financial issues). The Agenda sets out several initiatives designed to protect vulnerable customers, the following is a high-level summary of such initiatives:
As goods are increasingly purchased from sellers around the world, the EU commits to continue ensuring the safety of imports and protecting consumers from unfair business practices used by non-EU operators. The following is a summary of the initiatives set out by the Agenda in this area:
While the above provides a summary of the New Consumer Agenda, our team of experts can help address any specific questions you may have. KPMG provide regulatory advice, conduct risk and consumer protection advice, product design, assurance and programme support services across both the financial services and non-financial services sectors.
We will be releasing a series of publications discussing a number of the key topics above (and other consumer related topics) as part of our consumer reform series. We invite you to follow this series.