A common policy to protect consumers and users of products and services is essential for the functioning of the single market in the interest of the citizens. The aim of the common consumer policy is to ensure that the European Union's consumers draw maximum benefit from the existence of the internal market and play an active role in it. The single market must serve their maximum wellbeing and give them a free choice of goods and services of the best possible quality and at the best possible price, without consideration for their origin or for the nationality of their supplier [see section 6.1]. Furthermore, within the single market consumers must enjoy a similar level of protection to that provided within a national market. For these reasons, the goods and services offered in the single market should be safe and the consumers should dispose of the necessary information so as to make the good choices.
Article 12 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU affirms that consumer protection requirements shall be taken into account in defining and implementing other Union policies and activities. Article 169 (TFEU, ex-Article 153 TEC), gives the Union the task of contributing to the protection of health, safety and economic interests of consumers, as well to the promotion of their right to information, education and to organise themselves in order to safeguard their interests. The attainment of those objectives should be pursued through: (a) measures on approximation of laws adopted pursuant to Article 114 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (ex Article 95 TEC) having as their object the establishment and functioning of the internal market [see section 6.2.1]; and (b) measures which support, supplement and monitor the policy pursued by the Member States. In order to help achieve the objectives of consumer protection, a Council Resolution demands that allowance be made for consumers' interests in other common policies. Obviously, the common consumer policy should interact with other common policies, notably in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, environment protection and the harmonisation of legislations necessary for the internal market.
According to the Commission, the EU Consumer Policy strategy 2007-2013 has three main objectives [COM/2007/99]:
· to empower EU consumers, i.e., to give them real choices, accurate information, market transparency and the confidence that comes from effective protection and solid rights;
· to enhance EU consumers’ welfare in terms of price, choice, quality, diversity, affordability and safety;
· to protect consumers effectively from the serious risks and threats that they cannot tackle as individuals.
The multiannual consumer programme, with a financial envelope of 188.8 million EUR for the period 2014-2020, aims to ensure a high level of consumer protection, to empower consumers and to place the consumer at the heart of the internal market, within the framework of an overall strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth [Regulation 254/2014]. The specific objectives of the programme are: (a) to consolidate and enhance product safety through effective market surveillance throughout the Union; (b) to improve consumers’ education, information and awareness of their rights, to develop the evidence base for consumer policy and to provide support to consumer organisations; (c) to develop and reinforce consumer rights in particular through smart regulatory action and improving access to simple, efficient, expedient and low-cost redress including alternative dispute resolution; and (d) to support enforcement of consumer rights by strengthening cooperation between national enforcement bodies and by supporting consumers with advice.
Τhe competent authorities in the Member States designated as responsible for the enforcement of the laws that protect consumers' interests must cooperate with each other and with the Commission in order to ensure compliance with those laws and the smooth functioning of the internal market and in order to enhance the protection of consumers' economic interests [Regulation 2006/2004, last amended by Regulation 524/2013 and Directive 2015/2302]. The Commission is advised in the field of consumer protection by a European Consumer Consultative Group composed of: (a) one member representing national consumer organisations from each Member State; and (b) one member from each European consumer organisation [Decision 2009/705]. Its main task is to ensure that the requirements of consumers are taken into account in the formulation of common policies.