Added by: Despina Spanou

2017 will be a very important year for consumer policy. We will deliver on the projects we have started since the European Commission under President Juncker took office, especially regarding better conditions for consumers who go online. We will also deliver a vision for how to improve consumer protection both through stronger enforcement in all EU countries but also in adapting consumer protection law where this is needed.

As an institution in charge of safeguarding the Treaty that has provided for a high level of consumer protection, we will do our outmost to meet our duty. But we can’t do this without the support from the citizens.

This is where consumer advocacy is key; we need consumer organisations to act on our side and to help us find where we need to do more, where we could change the rules, where to be more realistic and where to be more forward looking. What are the problems of today’s consumers? Do traders meet consumers’ wishes when it comes to information allowing them to make the right choice for them? Or is it more than once a consumer has entered a commercial relation they don’t know how to deal with a problem? A modern consumer policy embeds to offer immediate and practical solutions accessible by all.

The Consumer Champion aims to be the tool that allows all consumer organisations to deliver on this project. Here are some concrete ideas on how to do that.

We will need your support in prompting the Online Dispute Resolution Platform which can now be accessed by almost all EU citizens and can help resolve within 90 days any dispute with a trader for something you buy online.

We will also need your support in advancing to consumers the interest in resorting to Alternative Dispute Resolution bodies for their problems, whether this is an electricity bill that went wrong or your mobile phone charges that do not meet your contract; such bodies will offer an immediate and fair solution without the cumbersome process of a Court procedure and the costs that come with it.

We also need your vocal support in projects that aim to improve the respect of consumer protection legislation both online and offline. When we proposed a new Regulation for the cooperation of enforcement authorities (known as the CPC Regulation) we were thinking of the need expressed by all interested parties, consumers and industry alike that the law is good but it is not properly enforced. The negotiations are at a crucial point; consumer organisations must work at national level to help us maintain the ambition of better and faster enforcement.

And we also need your help with things that are rarely discussed but where technology and the new economic environment may pose a challenge; product safety is genuinely a success story in the European Union. But we must face any new challenges coming our way and for that consumer advocacy can play a fundamental role now that we are shaping the Alert System of the future.

We count on Consumer Champion to become a point of reference for consumer advocates but also a point of communication between the European Commission and the real world. We hope that we will enhance this cooperation in 2017 as part of our mutual efforts to help citizens who are facing economic challenges today. And we can start from today: what are your wishes as a consumer advocate for this year? What are the challenges you foresee and how could we better help you in your job of protecting consumers’ interests and rights?