The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband – vzbv) is the strong voice of all consumers in Germany – independent of their origin or living conditions. vzbv is advocating for a just and sustainable society and economy, where policy-making focuses on people’s needs. As the umbrella organisation for the 16 German consumer associations, one in each of Germany’s federal states, and for 29 other member organisations, vzbv channels the strengths of its members to promote strong consumer protection. Our work is backed by a number of individuals and nine organisations who are supporting members.
- a better position for consumers in the social market economy
- clear and uniform rules for all market players
- effective competition on price and quality that provides true freedom of choice in transparent markets
- safe products and services
- clear consumer information
- reliable, enforceable consumer rights
- promotion of sustainable consumption
- upholding the precautionary principle, including in international free trade agreements
What we do
- vzbv represents the interests of consumers vis-à-vis policymakers, companies and other stakeholders.
- vzbv detects structural shortcomings in consumer policy, identifies consumer problems, proposes solutions and fights for their implementation. Consumers should be able to trust that the product they acquire is the best and safest fit for them.
- vzbv advocates for the use of a nuanced “average consumer” model in policy-making and as a basis for court rulings.
vzbv acts on five levels
Representing consumers’ interests
vzbv provides position papers and expert reports to ensure consumers’ interests are taken into account in legislative processes and socio-political debates. In consultation with decision-makers, vzbv shines a light on consumer-related problems by drawing on the findings from its market monitoring. Its experts are happy to assist the media and policy-makers with their enquiries.
Promoting information and advice for consumers
In coordination with its members, vzbv helps to ensure that the quality of advice is consistent across Germany by offering a range of trainings for advisers. Working in tandem with consumer associations, it also creates uniform advice guidelines so that consumers in every federal state can always receive up-to-date, consistent advice.
Observing the markets
As part of its market monitoring, vzbv analyses conspicuous reports relating to consumer problems from the digital, energy and financial sectors. It carries out investigations and studies, uncovering current problems and structural market failures. If vzbv identifies anomalies or breaches, it reports them to the supervisory authorities, talks to traders and providers or takes legal action against them. In addition, vzbv warns consumers about problematic products and services.
Every year, vzbv launches around 300 legal proceedings to ensure that breaches of consumer rights are remedied or claims for damages are determined. Legal warnings and complaints are based on cases that are reported to vzbv directly, are revealed through investigations or are identified as part of vzbv’s market monitoring. All the cases pursued by vzbv and the consumer associations, along with many other pieces of case law relating to consumer protection, can be found in the case law database.
Improving consumer education
vzbv is committed to ensuring that children and young people learn how to deal with the sheer amount of consumer options in their day-to-day lives and how to protect themselves – and this should start when they are at school. With its service on verbraucherbildung.de, vzbv helps teachers and schools to anchor consumer education in everyday school life on a long-term basis.
How we work
- vzbv is a not-for-profit organisation, politically impartial, and solely committed to representing the interests of consumers.
- vzbv recognises that the needs of consumers are diverse. Hence, in its work for consumers, vzbv does not exclude specific types or groups of consumers.
- Our “Empowering Consumers in Urban Areas” project, the Food Transparency project and the provision of energy advice through German consumer associations are key elements of our work.
- vzbv is funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection, through project funding and member subscriptions.
- vzbv operates both at European and international level and has an office in Brussels. vzbv is a member of the umbrella organisation of European consumer organisations, Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs (BEUC), and of Consumers International (CI), an international federation of consumer organisations.
- vzbv is a member of “Initiative Transparente Zivilgesellschaft (ITZ)”. In this context, vzbv is obliged to inform the public about what goals it tries to achieve, where the funding comes from, how the money is spent and who the decision-makers are that vzbv targets.
A young association with a long history
vzbv was established in 2000 as the result of the merger of three federal consumer organisations. One of its predecessors, AgV, was established already in 1953 by welfare organisations, women’s organisations and consumer cooperatives. In the same year, the first regional consumer association (Verbraucherzentrale) was founded.