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5 Tops and Flops of EU Consumer Policy (2014-2019)



Data protection: same rights for everyone
The General Data Protection Regulation is the world’s most comprehensive law to protect peoples’ privacy and personal data. It obliges companies and public bodies to be transparent and accountable about how they use personal data.


Phone calls from and to another EU country: prices capped
Roaming charges were a nuisance to consumers for a long time. In 2017, the EU has abolished them. Ever since, consumers who make calls from a different EU Member State than their home state pay only as much as they do at home. Furthermore, the EU has decided to significantly lower the costs for intra-EU international calls. This creates a real internal market in which people can communicate with each other without falling into cost traps.


Mobility: stricter CO2 emission targets
The decision to oblige car manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions from cars by 37.5% until 2030 and therefore also reduce their fuel consumption will not only benefit the environment and public health but also saves consumers’ money.


Net neutrality: rules for an open internet are strengthened
European rules on net neutrality make sure all data are transported in an equal manner through the internet – no matter who the sender and recipients are. This prevents telecom operators from creating fast and slow lanes for specific services or users depending on how much consumers are willing to pay.


Guarantee rights: more trust in connected devices
The European legislator has decided to extend the reversal of the burden of proof from six months to one year. Should defects occur within the first year after the conclusion of the contract, traders have to prove that the item was not defective before the consumer has received it. This will now also apply in cases where consumers acquired the goods or digital content in exchange for their personal data. Moreover, consumers of smart goods will be entitled to software updates.




Reform of copyright legislation: no legal certainty or protection for consumers
The introduction of upload filters might prevent consumers from sharing their holiday pictures or smartphone videos online. The filters are mostly unable to distinguish legal from illegal content and the complaints mechanism is too weak to reinstall a proper balance.


Digital single market: no unlimited access to digital content
Consumers can shop online from suppliers all over the world. However, this is still not true for online content like the one provided by streaming services. The proposal made by the European Commission was watered down to a bare minimum by the European legislator. Consumers will only be able to access certain public broadcasting content across borders.


Food: no harmonised nutrient profiles
Health and nutrition claims can only be included on food packaging or used to advertise food if the effect on health has been scientifically proven. Since 2006, this has been governed by the EU Regulation on nutrition and health claims. The Regulation also provides for the introduction of nutrient profiles: upper limits specifying the maximum sugar, fat or salt content in a product for it to be allowed to carry a health claim. However, more than ten years later, the European Commission has failed to come up with the necessary concept.


Food: No EU-wide country of origin labelling
Following the decision of the European Commission not to introduce an EU-wide country of origin labelling scheme for labelling meat and dairy products, various Member States introduced national schemes for domestically produced products. This does not allow for the identification of goods produced abroad. The decision of the European Commission stands in sharp contrast to consumers’ expectations as shown by a representative study by vzbv.


Separation of investment and commercial banks: EU rules failed
In order to guarantee stability of financial markets and avoid a crash, big banks were supposed to separate their investment and retail business. The European Commission, however, has withdrawn its legislative proposal that was pursuing this aim.