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Current problems and future challenges for EU consumers

European_UnionDespite the high level of consumer protection already achieved in the EU, the situation on the ground for EU consumers can still be improved. A number of new challenges have emerged, in particular as a result of new developments in technology, unsustainable patterns of consumption or social exclusion. These challenges also create new opportunities.

Challenges regarding product, service and food safety

Ensuring that products, services and food are safe is a basic objective of any consumer policy.

But there are differences between Member States in enforcing product safety legislation and, at a time when national administrations responsible for market surveillance face resource constraints, the whole enforcement network is struggling to do more with less.

At the same time, globalisation of the production chain continues (for example, an increasing proportion of consumer products, including 85 % of all toys bought in the European Union, are now produced in China). This makes the detection of unsafe products a significant challenge.

The economic crisis means that consumers and businesses focus predominantly on price, with the risk that safety considerations lose importance and the space for counterfeiting products increases. Market surveillance authorities must maintain vigilant and renewed efforts are required, through the cooperation of national authorities and of law enforcement agencies, inside and outside the EU.

With the increased importance of consumer services, and a growing cross-border take-up of some of these services in the Single Market, the question of their safety must be addressed in greater depth to ensure that consumers enjoy the same, high level of safety throughout the internal market and to assess the added value of action at EU level. Europe has already achieved an impressive record on food safety but this policy area needs constant adjustment as new scientific evidence comes to light.

Credit © European Union

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