Consumer rights

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EESC opinion: Consumer rights

Key points:

The EESC:

- recommends that the Commission proposal be reworded in the terms set out in this opinion, and should deal only with horizontal harmonisation on distance and off-premises sales, rather than attempting to achieve full harmonisation, because these are the areas most affected by cross-border trade;
- calls for the sections of the proposal for a Directive on unfair terms and on the sale of goods and associated guarantees to be removed, as these sections deal with issues that cannot be dealt with appropriately through full harmonisation with Community law at its current stage of development;
- believes that establishing "common" definitions would provide a greater level of legal certainty to commercial players and consumers, and therefore calls on the Commission to iron out the inconsistencies which currently exist in this area of the proposal;
- calls on the Commission, for the sake of legal certainty, to ensure that its proposal clarifies whether or not the definitions it provides are to be fully harmonised or whether the Member States will have some discretion to elaborate on these concepts;
- believes that European consumers should not be seen solely in terms of the internal market or be viewed as rational market players, aware and well-informed, taking decisions purely on the basis of competition, with consumer protection amounting simply to providing more and better information;
- wishes to note that the serious shortcomings in dispute settlement and compensation for damages are a key factor "if not the most important" factor in the lack of progress on cross-border trade. The Commission proposal, however, omits this concern.