Thursday, 28 October 2010

Sheena Iyengar on the art of choosing

Consumer should be free to make his own choices.
Consumer should be well informed so that he can make the right choices.
Consumer has too many choices in our society...

Those are just a few of the 'common' statements that refer to the consumers' choice that influenced regulation and creation of many consumer laws (e.g. duties to inform). Since I find it interesting to take a look at what lies underneath the legal instruments, i.e. whether there is really a legitimate basis in consumer behavior that justifies creation of certain legal rules, I was very much interested in the presentation that Sheena Iyengar (from the Columbia Business School, author of the book: The Art of Choosing) gave during TEDGlobal 2010 on the art of choosing.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

EU collective redress regulation needed? Undoubtedly so.

Joaquín Almunia (Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy) gave a speech in Brussels on 21 October 2010 addressing the 'State of Play and Future Outlook'.

In his speech Mr. Alumnia devotes some time to the problem of private enforcement and the lack of effective measures for collective redress.

"All EU citizens and businesses should enjoy the right to obtain compensation for damages caused by a breach of EU law. But in reality, their rights depend on where they live in Europe. About half of the Member States don't have any form of collective action, and even where this right is recognised, its use is very diverse both in scope and effectiveness.

Last week, the College of Commissioners debated these and other issues related to collective redress. The discussion was prepared by an information note I put forward together with my colleagues Reding and Dalli, developing the ideas the three of us had anticipated to the EP during our confirmation hearings last January.

The College agreed on the need for a coherent EU framework to strengthen collective redress across Europe that would draw on the different European national traditions. At the same time, we are committed to avoid the excesses and drawbacks of the US system.

Five principles for group actions across the Union were agreed:

•We should ensure effective compensation for everyone who has suffered damages, recalling that group claims are often cheaper and more practical than individual claims.

•We should put strong safeguards against abusive litigation;

•We should consider settlements or systems in addition to court proceedings to resolve disputes;

Collective judgements should be enforceable throughout the EU; and

•Finally, we should ensure that adequate financing can be allowed so as to give citizens and businesses – especially SME’s – fair access to justice.

We decided to launch a public consultation from this coming November until the end of February 2011. In light of the replies that we will receive, we will propose a framework for collective redress.

This framework would become the basis for possible legislative initiatives in several policy areas including competition, environment, consumer protection, and others.(...)"

It's good to hear that we are getting closer to having the collective redress actions for consumers sufficiently regulated.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

13th International Conference on Consumer Law: Protecting Consumers in Economic Recessions

13th International Conference on Consumer Law organized by the IACL (International Association of Consumer Law) will take place at Brunel University, UK, on 27-29 June 2011. Deadline for submission of papers is set for 10th January 2011. The theme of this conference will be: Protecting Consumers in Economic Recessions. To see the call for paper, click here.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

European Consumer Centre Online Survey

European Commission is trying to find out how to get better at informing citizens about the European Consumer Centres. To help them, please answer an online anonymous survey here.
If you don't care about remaining anonymous, you may submit your email address and enter into a competition. You may then win an overnight trip to the next European Consumer Summit in Brussels (planned for March 2011) organised by the European Commission.
I don't know about you, readers, but I'm not going to pass an opportunity to win this prize...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

European Consumer Centres, happy birthday!

It has been five years now that European Consumer Centres exist that are 'at the service of European consumers'. Whether a problem occurs with goods bought online, holidays are ruined because of cancelled flights, or other consumer problems: the ECC is there to help. 29 Centres exist, one in each of the Member States plus one in Iceland and one in Norway.

To get an idea of the activities undertaken and services offered by the ECC, here you can find the report published at the 5-year anniversary.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Collective redress addressed again by the European Commission?

Yesterday, European Voice published a short note (by Simon Taylor) that talks on group compensation are to resume. Collective redress had been a hot topic in European Commission in the past few years, since it should guarantee consumers to start actions for compensations against companies that might cause no or little loss to an individual consumer while harming significantly consumer interests as a whole. Naturally, the plans of regulating collective redress on EU level have been strongly opposed by the business representatives in Brussels. Now, it has been announced that next week the European Commission will re-open a debate on EU legislation that would allow collectives of consumers to seek compensation from companies found guilty of anti-competitive practices (e.g. price fixing). On 12 October commissioners will hold an orientation debate on whether any action should be taken at EU level. The existing solutions for collective redress actions on national level will be discussed. If commissioners agree to further regulate these actions, public consultation will be launched.