Ladies and gentlemen,
When we were standing here before you with Didier last November, we made a promise to advance the Consumer Agenda. Our objective was to take a step forward to empower consumers with all the rights they need to have in an ever rapidly changing environment - especially digital. We worked together hard to make today's proposal relevant, proportional and effective for the consumers. I am glad we can present them together today.
This first delivery of this agenda is composed of the revision of two pieces of legislation:
One, the existing General Product Safety Directive from 2002, which will become a regulation and second, the EU rules on consumer credit to safeguard consumers from 2008.
I think these proposals are very much needed, because the pandemic has all of us under a huge stress test.
Now, that we the whole of Europe is working to emerge stronger from the crisis, we cannot forget about consumers who remain one of the key drivers of economic recovery and growth.
Today's proposals respond to this.
First of all, we want to address the rapid speed of digitalisation which the pandemic only fuelled. When the Product Safety Directive entered into force, in 2002, only 9% of Europeans purchased online. Today, this figure is over 70%. The consumers also buy more and more technology related products such as wireless earplugs or gaming consoles. Also, too many flawed or unsafe products are available online and no one feels responsible for their removal.
Second of all, we want to address lessons learned from the pandemic. You would recall a flood of deceptive and even dangerous products that were supposed to help keeping people safe from the coronavirus. Some of them very expensive, which could affect the financial situation of the consumer.
At the same time, the access to credit has become easier and it is at times possible to borrow money just with few clicks. While this is in principle good, we have to make sure that consumer protection also applies to such situations. This is not a trivial matter because already before Covid one in 10 EU consumers had arrears (delays) on mortgage or rent, utility bills or hire purchase. And the number of over-indebted households is expected to increase due to the COVID-19 crisis, as it did after the financial crisis of 2008.
A recent survey published by the Commission on 12 March 2021 shows that on average 38% of consumers have concerns on how they are going to pay their bills next month and the situation varies greatly among Member States (from 7% to 71%).
Our proposals today will therefore address these gaps. The online marketplaces that sell products will have the responsibility to ensure that all products are safe, regardless where they come from.
With the revision of the consumer credit directive, we provide that information related to credits must be presented in a clearer way so that we all know what we are signing up for. The financial institutions cannot hide behind the wall of legal language or put the consumer under overload of information.
Didier will present these proposals in more details.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We bring the already strong protection of EU consumers to another level today. It is updated, modernised, fit for the digital age and efficient.
To conclude, I believe consumers have a huge power over the direction of change of the entire economy. With their choices they can send strong incentives to companies to become more digital and more green.
We want to be on the side of consumers, and help them to make free choices while remaining safe.