Liam Aylward MEP advocated assessing the full scale of problems with Consumer Protection enforcement laws and drawing up viable solutions to tackle them during a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today on the EU Regulation on Consumer Protection Cooperation.
“Effective consumer protection laws are a key part of the single market. It is imperative that a clear legal framework exists to ensure consumers can have complete confidence when purchasing goods and services from anywhere in the EU.”

This Regulation aimed to abolish the barriers to cross-border cooperation between public enforcement authorities to detect, investigate and bring about the cessation or prohibition of intra-EU infringements of the laws which protect consumers’ interests.  However, according to the Parliament Report its effectiveness and usefulness for consumers is limited.

Speaking on this point the Ireland East MEP stated:
“Real problems exist with the functioning of the current consumer regulations. Delays in cases and high costs are exacerbated by fragmented national enforcement legislation.  For example in June 2008 it took 81 days for a cross border case to be closed, this figure had increased to 148 days by December 2008.

The Regulation intended to efficiently and effectively tackle cross-border rogue traders which disrupt the smooth functioning of the internal market, and thus increase consumer confidence in taking up cross-border offers, and prevent sellers and suppliers from evading enforcement to the competitive detriment of law-abiding sellers and suppliers but its effectiveness is being compromised by fragmentation between the authorities responsible.

Speaking on the lack of coordination from the Member States which is hampering this Regulation, Mr Aylward said:
“The Consumer Protection Network is unable to reach its potential as a coordinating body due to Member States failing to engage with it effectively. Ultimately, it is consumers who lose out to these difficulties, while rogue traders exploit them. Upholding and enforcing consumer rights are of paramount importance in the effective functioning of the single market and Member States must start engaging on consumer rights cohesively and effectively.”