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European Commission to Carry out “Fitness Check” of EU Consumer Regulations

Hong Kong traders may like to be informed that a roadmap has been published by the European Commission for an overall evaluation of EU consumer legislation in 2016 and 2017, called a Fitness Check. Among other actions, the Commission runs a Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) on EU law and Policy, as part of its better regulation policy.

There are mainly six EU directives to be evaluated which are seen to have an important impact on consumers and businesses trading in the EU, in everyday life. They regulate issues such as price indications for consumers, consumer guarantees for defective goods, unfair contractual terms between businesses and consumers, and other aspects that will be relevant to, among others, Hong Kong sellers. The directives concerned are:

  • The Unfair Contract Terms Directive,
  • The Price Indication Directive,
  • The sale of goods and consumer guarantees Directive,
  • The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive,
  • The Misleading and Comparative Advertising Directive,
  • The Injunctions Directive.

The overall aim of the Fitness Check is to analyse these directives’ effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU-added value of the policies framed therein. The focus will moreover be to assess whether the fundamental objectives of these directives have been efficiently achieved and fully delivered.

The Fitness Check will mainly evaluate, among other matters, the success and problems of the directives’ implementation in the EU Member States, the costs of implementation, and of course the view of key stakeholders, including sellers.

The involvement of stakeholders is believed to be highly important in order to identify the problems, collect facts and data and, on this basis, asses the impacts of the consumer legislation as well as collect views on potential options for future actions.

For this reason, a consultation strategy has been established by the Commission. Through this action, the Commission hopes to be able to reach out to citizens and businesses, so as to keep informed of what the EU regulations are doing for them in the field of consumer legislation. Hence, stakeholders can be involved in the evaluation process to constructively criticise or highlight aspects that could be made better.

Hong Kong traders may like to know that one of the tasks of the Fitness Check is to coherently assess the application of EU consumer law directives in specific sectors where EU consumer protection legislation exists (for example, in electronic communications, and consumer financial services). It is therefore felt to be particularly important to engage with stakeholders and Member State authorities in specific consumer-oriented sectors.

Hong Kong traders might recall the EU Consumers Rights Directive 2011/83/EU, which was adopted 10 October 2011. Its implementation in the EU Member States was scheduled for June 2014. This Directive is aimed at strengthening consumers’ rights in all 28 EU Member States, particularly when consumers shop online. It aims at achieving the right balance between a high level of consumer protection and the competitiveness of enterprises. This Directive will be evaluated separately by the Commission and the outcome will be merged with the final Fitness Check report in 2017.

Moreover, the Fitness Check is to address a new draft Directive for the future regulation of online and other distance sales of goods. This future law is proposed in the context of the EU Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy laid down by the European Commission. By means of the evaluation via the Fitness Check, it should become evident if there is need for any further legislative actions at EU level.

The Commission’s Fitness Check will go on throughout 2016. A Final report on the results are then expected to be published in the second quarter of 2017.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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