European Consumer Day - Welcome Speech

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Dear representatives of the EU Presidencies,
Dear Commissioner,
Dear member of the EU Parliament,
Dear colleague of the European Commission,
Dear members,
Dear participants,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you today to the 23rd edition of the European Consumer Day. As the voice of civil society in Europe, the EESC has always been very active in consumer affairs. It has adopted several opinions ranging from consumer protection, to enforcement, to vulnerable consumers, sustainability, consumer finance and empowerment.

The Committee has also actively engaged with consumer representatives through its flagship European Consumer Day events. Moreover, the EESC has been cooperating strongly with the European Commission. In 2020, the European Commission presented the New Consumer Agenda which puts forward priorities and key actions to be taken in the next 5 years. One of the objectives of the New Consumer Agenda is to empower European consumers for the green transition, for more sustainability. The EESC supports the priorities mentioned in the New Consumer Agenda and welcomes the different initiatives aiming at its implementation at European and at Member States' level.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our world's sustainability is not guaranteed. According to the UN, if the world's population reaches 9.6 billion people by 2050, nearly three planets could be needed to provide the resources to sustain current lifestyles. Climate change, raw material shortness, the emergence of new diseases show that the planet and the human beings are fragile. We need to act for a more sustainable world and consumers play an essential role in this process. Consumers need some tools: Technology allows us already to measure the carbon footprint of our purchases or travels. But consumers also need adequate information, for instance a reparability index displayed on products' labels. Besides, the right to repair should be promoted as an alternative to replacement. According to a Eurobarometer survey, 77% of the Europeans would prefer to repair their products rather than to replace them.

Once consumers have the tools they need, they will be able to become the ambassadors of a more sustainable consumption, for example by fighting premature obsolescence. Regarding premature obsolescence, the EESC wishes to provide sufficient protection for consumers and estimates that it is not enough to inform the consumer that goods are not repairable. The EESC goes further and advocates that the actual practice of intentionally making products that cannot be repaired must be banned in its own right. 

To become real actors of the transition, consumers need to be accompanied by the enterprises. More and more enterprises try to adopt eco-friendly practices in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Some of them propose not anymore, the selling of a product, but instead to charge the customer only for the use of the product as a service. We are talking here of the so-called functional economy. Current consumption patterns based on individual ownership led to under-use of goods: for instance, a car is currently unused 95% of the time and in urban areas the average number of passengers is 1.2 per vehicle. Acquiring a mobility service (such as a car for a specified length of time and distance) allows these goods to be used more intensively, with a lower carbon footprint.

A more sustainable world also implies that we, as consumers, but also as human beings, put environmental health as a priority. According to recent figures, 9 million deaths in the world are yearly attributed to pollution. We need to make an effort on the quality of air, water and soils, and to take into account emergent risks linked to the use of specific products. The EESC has been insisting on several occasions on the fact that the general principles governing market surveillance should include the precautionary principle as a key element of decisions in all cases where consumer or environmental protection may be compromised.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Your input to the European Consumer Day is essential. Let's allow the conclusions of this day to feed the debate on the road to the Consumer Summit which will be organised next spring.

Last but not least, I would like to pay tribute to the head of the Section for the internal market, production and consumption, Luís Lobo, who unfortunately passed away too early. Let's dedicate today's event to him as a tribute to his hard work on Consumer policy over so many years.

I wish you all a successful European Consumer Day.

Thank you for your attention.


European Consumer Day - Welcome Speech