Friday, 27 April 2012

Unfair contract term? Consequences for all consumers, not only those party to the proceedings. - CJEU case C-472/10 (Invitel)

26 April 2012: CJEU judgment in case C-472/10 (Invitel)

I'm participating right now in the conference on the law and economics perspective of the CESL in Chicago, which means that this blog post will be short by necessity. Still, it is worth mentioning that the CJEU issued a new judgment yesterday clarifying certain issues as to the applicability of the Unfair Contract Terms Directive.

The case concerned contracts concluded with consumers by Invitel, which is a fixed-line telephone network operator in Hungary. Invitel included in its standard contract terms a condition pursuant to which consumers had to pay additional fees, which had not initially been agreed between the parties, when they decided to pay invoiced by money orders. (Par. 17) The method of calculation of these additional fees was not explained. (Par. 18) Upon complaints of many consumers to the consumer protection authority, it decided to take an action against Invitel claiming they had been using an unfair contract term and demanding automatic and retroactive reimbursement to consumers who were charged by Invitel these fees. (Par. 19)

The Hungarian court asked the CJEU whether a standard contract term that gives a possibility to a service provider to unilaterally change contract terms without explaining the method of adjusting the price nor reasons behind it should be seen as always and automatically void (blacklisted). Moreover, the Hungarian court enquired as to the details of an action that a consumer protection organisation may make against companies using unfair contract terms: if the contract term is considered to be unfair, does it not bind any consumer, also if they are not party to the proceedings (also as regards the future)? 

The CJEU answered, as it was to be expected, that the national court has to assess the unfair character of a contract term on its own. The Unfair Contract Terms Directive does not provide for a black list of unfair contract terms. (Par. 25-26) Certain factors are being indicated to the national court as having to be taken into account in its assessment of unfairness: the fact whether the reasons for, or the method of, the amendment of the fees were set out in plain, intelligible language; the fact whether consumers have a right to terminate the contract.

" (...) the possibility for the consumer to foresee, on the basis of clear, intelligible criteria, the amendments, by a seller or supplier, of the GBC with regard to the fees connected to the service to be provided is of fundamental importance." (Par. 28)

The answer to the other question was that if a consumer organisation begins an injunction procedure against a company on behalf of hurt consumers, the recognition of unfairness' effects by the national court shall bring about effects not only for the consumers who were represented in the procedure by the consumer organisation but also to those who concluded a contract with the server provider under the same standard contract terms, and who were not party to the injunction proceedings. (Par. 38) Moreover, the court should apply, of its own motion, and also with regard to the future, all consequences of unfairness which are provided by national law. (Par. 43)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

At your service

More news from the European Commission today: the Commission adopted a de minimis Regulation on services of general economic interest (SGEI). Consumers benefit from SGEI on a daily basis, e.g., by taking a bus to work, watching TV at home, sending a letter at a post office, going for blood tests at a hospital, etc. The Regulation exempts from EU state aid rules aid of up to € 500 000 per company over a three-year period that is granted as compensation for the provision of such services. It forms the final pillar of an 'SGEI package' defining the conditions under which State aid in the form of public service compensation can be considered compatible with the EU rules.

See the FAQ page for more information on the new Regulation.

DG Connect

What's in a name? As of 1st of July, the European Commission's Directorate General 'Information Society and Media' will be renamed 'Communication Networks, Content and Technology'. In short: DG Connect.

The new name is meant to indicate a change in the organisation of the DG (pictured in an organisation chart) as well as to emphasise the mission of the DG under the EU's Digital Agenda (see also Commissioner Kroes' blog post 'The Commission changes to face the future: We launch DG Connect').

More information and a mission statement can be found on the DG's website.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

ACTA endangers fundamental rights of EU citizens

Today the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) issued another opinion on the threat to the protection of personal data and privacy. Namely, the proposal of the European Council to conclude the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was negatively evaluated by the EDPS. We mentioned previously that the European Commission was considering referring ACTA to the CJEU and that there was lots of opposition towards introduction of this agreement. It seems that whichever institution takes a closer look at the content thereof, there is no problem with finding more and more problems within it.

The EDPS sees the lack of precision of ACTA about the measures that could be used in order to fight infringements of IP rights on the Internet as endangering the fundamental rights of EU citizens. Especially, the large scale monitoring of users' behaviour and of their e-communication is perceived as highly intrusive on the EU citizens' privacy, and its application should be limited to situations when it was really necessarily, which the proposal does not specify. Any measures that allow indiscriminate or widespread monitoring of Internet users' behaviour, and e-communications, with regard to trivial, small-scale, not for profit infringements should be seen as disproportionate - infringing Article 8 ECHR, Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and Data Protection Directive. Additionally, the EDPS considers that ACTA provides for many voluntary enforcement cooperation measures that would entail a processing of personal data by ISPs, going beyond what is allowed under EU law. Another criticism is directed at the lack of sufficient safeguards in ACTA, e.g., as to due process, effective judicial protection, the principle of the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy and data protection.

"While more international cooperation is needed for the enforcement of IP rights, the means envisaged must not come at the expense of the fundamental rights of individuals. A right balance between the fight against IP infringements and the rights to privacy and data protection must be respected. It appears that ACTA has not been fully successful in this respect." stated the Assistant EDPS - Giovanni Buttarelli (ACTA measures to enforce IP rights in the digital environment could threaten privacy and data protection if not properly implemented)

Towards passenger ship safety

There has been lots of talk in the European institutions (and as a result on this blog) about the protection that air passengers receive in Europe. Today the EU Transport Commissioner, Siim Kallas, presented the European Commission's priorities for passenger ship safety (Transport: Commission sets out priorities for passenger ship safety). After all, despite the raising popularity of the air travel this is not the only method of travelling that Europeans make use of.

The EU Commission intends to promote voluntary industry measures. For example, today the European Cruise Council committed itself to undertake more strict than legally necessary measures with regard to, among others, route planning, security of bridge access, access to life jackets on board (Cruise Industry Announces Three New Safety Policies at EU Conference). The European Cruise Council intends to appoint four independent experts to oversee the process and monitor progress and implementation of such measures.

The EU Commission plans to intensify enforcement actions to make sure that safety rules are being implied in practice. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will give a hand in organising inspections, e.g., of proper registration of passengers on board.

Finally, certain regulatory measures are under consideration. For example, the new proposal on domestic passenger ship safety rules is planned for the end of 2012, which would broaden the application of existing EU rules to ships other than only constructed out of steel (lots of touristic ships are smaller and not made of steel). Another proposal is considered as far as EU passenger ship stability rules for roll-on roll-off ferries are concerned. Stability is particularly important for these ferries since water on deck is more common. The new proposal would focus on rules that would lead to improving stability after damage. In the future, regulation of cruise and ropax ship stability is also feasible.

Until 5 July 2012 public consultations are conducted with stakeholders of the industry. Legislative proposals are expected before the end of 2012.

Careful re-use of personal data included in public sector information

Last week the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) published his opinion on the European Commission's Open Data Package, which includes a proposal for an amendment of Directive 2003/98/EC on re-use of public sector information (PSI). Some of the PSI may contain personal data of European citizens, which means that it requires additional protection measures in handling it. The EDPS stated:

"The re-use of PSI containing personal data may bring significant benefits, but also entails great risks to the protection of personal data, due to the wide variety of data held by public sector bodies. The Commission proposal should therefore more clearly define in what situations and subject to what safeguards information containing personal data may be required to be made available for re-use." (EDPS calls for data protection safeguards before public sector information containing personal data can be re-used)

The EDPS agrees that re-use of PSI can be beneficial, but requires the European Commission to pay more attention to the protection of personal data of EU citizens.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Towards secure internet payments

On 11 April 2012 the European Central Bank (ECB) endorsed for public consultation the "Recommendations for the security of internet payments" that apply to the retail payments. By issuing these Recommendations the European authorities hope to increase consumers' trust in internet payments and to combat payment fraud. These Recommendations are applicable to all internet payment service providers (PSPs) as defined in the Payment Service Directive, whether such payments are done by means of the execution of card payments online or credit transfers on the internet. The method of implementation of these Recommendations will depend on national legal systems, but the creators of Recommendations promise to try to ensure consistency across Member States.

Comments on the draft of the Recommendations are welcomed by 20 June 2012. If further information is needed, the national central banks and national supervisors of PSPs serve as contact points regarding the Recommendations. All received comments will be published online unless a restriction to the contrary is made by the author of the comments (Consultation announcement).

Seminar: Europe in crisis: the challenge of winning citizens' trust

The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, is organising an even tomorrow (24th of April, from 10.00 to 12.30) in the European Parliament in Brussels: "Europe in crisis:  the challenge of winning citizens' trust". The focus of the seminar is on discussing measures that could be taken in order to regain EU citizens' trust in the national and EU governments. You may follow the conference webstream at:
If you have a question to the speakers you may ask it using Twitter hashtag: #EO2012.

Passenger Name Record is on

Last Thursday the European Parliament adopted the EU-US Passenger Name Record (PNR) agreement. For more comments on this agreement see our previous post: Passenger Name Record - your flying data forever in retention of the US government? The privacy and data protection issues that we had mentioned previously remained unsolved, which made a significant number of MEPs (including the rapporteur) vote against this agreement.

See also:

Friday, 20 April 2012

Airlines liable for denying boarding even as a result of extraordinary circumstances - AG's Bot opinion in Finnair (C-22/11)

19 April 2012: AG's Bot opinion in case Finnair Oyj v Timy Lassooy (C-22/11)

Yesterday, Advocate General Bot issued another opinion in a case concerning air passengers' rights. This time, there was a strike by staff at Barcelona airport in Spain on 28 July 2006, which resulted in cancelling the flight of Finnair from Barcelona to Helsinki scheduled for 11:40 that day. Finnair decided that its passengers should not have to wait too long to go back to Finland and reshuffled passengers for the flights in the coming few days. That meant that passengers from 28th of July could fly out the next day on the 11:40 flight or at a specially arranged flight departing at 21:40 that day. However, passengers that were scheduled for the 29th of July were put on flights on the 30th of July, and so on... Mr Lassooy had a flight for 11:40 on the 30th of July, but was able to get a seat only on the 21:40 flight.

Mr Lassooy claimed that he was denied boarding by Finnair at his scheduled flight and asked for compensation of 400 euro, as provided by the Regulation 261/2004 in case of flights of more than 1500 kilometres. The Finnish court asked the CJEU for help with interpreting the 'denied boarding' term used in this Regulation, in order to be able to assess whether compensation should be paid to the passenger.

AG Bot states in his opinion that the concept of 'denied boarding' must be interpreted broadly and should not be limited to situations of overbooking the flight. (Par. 35) This flows from the preparatory works on the Regulations as well as its purpose: ensuring high level of protection of air passengers. (Par. 36) In the given case, the flight for which Mr Lassooy bought a ticket had left as scheduled. This meant, that if the passenger was not seen as having been denied boarding, he would not be able to claim any compensation or assistance since the flight was not cancelled nor delayed. (Par. 39) It cannot be denied, that the passenger experienced inconvenience and serious trouble that the Regulation aims at alleviating.

Moreover, the 'denied boarding' cannot be justified by grounds relating to the rescheduling of flights as a result of extraordinary circumstances, such as a strike at an airport. (Par. 62) AG Bot mentions that the only justification for the denied boarding that would release the airline from having to compensate its passengers is when passengers are denied boarding based on their personal situation. This is because the 'denied boarding' is an arbitrary measure of an airline for which it needs to take responsibility, unless it happened due to passengers own fault, e.g., not providing necessary travel documents, endangering the safety of the flight, etc. (Par. 47)

"(...) the decision to deny boarding based on reasons which are wholly unrelated to the passenger concerned cannot have the effect of depriving him of all protection." (Par. 48)

AG Bot mentions also that since the airport strike cannot be attributed to Finnair, the airline may seek compensation from the persons responsible for the damage it had suffered. (Par. 56)

AG Bot addressed also the question of equal treatment in his opinion. (Par. 57) In case of extraordinary circumstances such as in this case, passengers whose flight will be cancelled or delayed due to these circumstances will not be able to claim compensation but only assistance from the airline (based on exception in Article 5(3) of the Regulation). At the same time, passengers who will be denied boarding due to the same circumstances will be able to claim compensation from the airlines. However, the AG does not consider the comparison between these passengers as appropriate since they are not in the same position. (Par. 48)

"(...) denied boarding does not affect all the passengers on a flight, but one or more passengers who have nevertheless duly presented themselves for boarding. Simply on the arbitrary decision of the air carrier, the passenger who has been denied boarding will not be on the flight for which he had a reservation, a flight which will be operated in accordance with scheduling arranged by the air carrier. It is different in the case of flight cancellation or delay, since, in such cases, all the passengers are concerned and affected in the same way." (Par. 59)

Additionally, when extraordinary circumstances arise it is beyond the airlines control and they have no choice but to cancel or delay the flight, therefore, they should not be held liable for it. (Par. 60) On the other hand, when a passenger is denied boarding, it is due to a decision of an airline, an arbitrary one, based on which one or more passengers suffer trouble and inconvenience. (Par. 61)

"(...) because the harm suffered is attributable to the air carrier, compensation is payable in order to dissuade the carrier from resorting to such a practice and to give more importance to calling for volunteers to surrender their reservations (...)." (Par. 61)

While this opinion is passengers-friendly, its consequences for air passengers may be far from satisfactory. If the CJEU upholds this opinion, then the airlines will try to avoid rescheduling flights of passengers, and therefore denying them boarding. This will have negative consequences for passengers whose flights will get cancelled since they will no longer have priority to get seats on the next flight to their destination. Airlines are likely to want to avoid paying compensation to more passengers, so they will proceed with the scheduled flights as planned, and only assign the not yet taken seats to passengers from previous, cancelled flights. This may lead to longer delays in reaching their destination by passengers of cancelled flights.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Going green - Competence allocation and regulatory functioning in the EU's emissions trading scheme

Following up on Monday's post, one question arising in the context of regulating environmental issues is where to allocate regulatory competences. Or, in other words, who is in the best position to take decisions about the ways of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases?

Josephine van Zeben has conducted a thorough study on the legal, economic and political aspects of this topic, which has resulted in a PhD thesis that she will defend on 11 May 2012. The book is available on her website

In summary, the book aims to show that 'the explicit recognition of the role of distinct competences in the regulatory process will bring existing theories of federalism closer in line with regulatory reality'. The theoretical framework is applied to a study of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which seeks to mitigate greenhouse gases through emissions trading. The study shows that '[t]he deviations from the theoretically optimal allocation in the trading phases of the EU ETS can explain some of the difficulties in the earlier trading phases. In turn, these deviations can be explained by the political economy of the EU ETS, which shows that optimal allocation is hard to achieve during the foundation of a new regulatory regime due to the relative strength of certain stakeholders in the political process.'

Statistically relevant

Statistics play a big role in designing consumer policy. As the EU Commissioner Šemeta mentioned:

"Statistics not only pin-point where the weaknesses lie in our economic (and social) systems, but they provide the basis for finding the right solutions to address them." (Commissioner Šemeta presents the "revised Regulation on European Statistics")

The new proposal for changes in the Regulation on European Statistics (223/2009) of 11 March 2009 aims at increasing the independence of gathered statistics and assures high quality thereof (Commission strengthens independence and reliability of EU statistics). It determines criteria for the selection of heads of National Statistical Institutes and Eurostat, as well as clarifies their accountability. The proposal will require Member States to sign "Commitments of Confidence", pledging to respect the European Statistics Code of Practice, to safeguard the independence of NSIs and to establish national quality assurance frameworks for statistics.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Making waste a resource

The European Commission published a report on the 10th of April 2012 on the use of economic instruments and waste management performances. Taking into account the environmental concerns of our century, good policy choices regarding management of waste and resources are crucial for the development of the EU. Citizens in every Member State need to be encouraged to participate in good resources policies. The report points out towards vast differences between Member States. While six most advanced Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands) landfills less than 3% of their municipal waste and have high recycling rates, there are still 9 Member States that landfill more than 75% of their waste.

It is interesting to see that aside some public administrative measures directed at companies, e.g., landfill and incineration taxes or bans, other measures adopted to motivate citizens to segregate their waste and to recycle have proved effective. For example, the 'pay-as-you-throw' scheme, where citizens are charged a certain fee based on the amount of garbage they are disposing of. Another scheme - 'producer responsibility' - increases the responsibility of producers of goods for their packaging, encouraging them to take measures to collect packaging from citizens after the use of the product. Think about a possibility to give back beer or soda bottles in a supermarket - the small fee that you get in return is an incentive to act environmentally-friendly, at the same time the company may reuse its packaging, which saves it costs and taxes.

The European Commission is considering legally binding measures that would lead to implementing existing waste legislation more effectively (Environment - Getting gold from garbage - how some Member States are making waste a resource).

Making fundamental rights reality

Today, the European Commission presented its second annual report on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which has now been legally binding for over two years. The report is meant to raise people's awareness of the Charter, when it applies, and the role of EU institutions in the field of fundamental rights.

In the field of consumer law, the report makes mention of some important judgments of the European Court of Justice: 'In March 2011, the Court ruled in the Test-Achats case that different premiums for men and women constitute sex discrimination (MEMO/11/123) and, in November 2011, that ordering an internet service provider to install a filtering system to prevent an infringement of intellectual property rights would infringe customers' rights to receive and send information (Scarlet v. SABAM case).'

More information can be found in the Commission's press release and on DG Justice's website.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Internet of Things

The European Commission opened a new consultation procedures (not only for stakeholders, but also for the public at large) which is to help it envisage the future of internet technology ("The Internet is gearing up for the next technological revolution: communication with and among objects. How would you envisage the "governance" of such an "Internet of Things" (IoT)"). This initiative fits within the plan to increase online data protection of EU citizens. Nowadays, the protection is directed at internet users who open their computers/phones and browse the web. With the progress of technology it becomes clear that other, everyday products may be used to collect personal data as well as information on the physical environment of EU citizens via the wireless network. The EC predicts that by 2015 an average person would have 7 objects connected to the Internet (instead of standard 2: computer and smartphone). For example, sensors in a car may give away citizens' locations but also information on various subsystems of the car, their need for maintanence and repair; personal devices may control the state of health of a citizen but also transfer this data to a central database; content of the fridge etc. could be stored and automaticlaly updated on citizens' smartphones.

"For example, if a university teacher cancels a morning lecture because they are sick, students' alarm clocks and coffee machines could automatically be reset, giving them an extra hour in bed. If an elderly person forgets to take an essential pill, a warning text message could be sent to a close family member, or even to a local emergency centre, so that somebody could call round to check that everything was ok." (Digital Agenda: Commission consults on rules for wirelessly connected devices - the "Internet of Things")

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of wireless-connected devices, that allows access to information about our surrounding environment through objects able to interact with that environment and react to events. While this network could significantly improve our lives, it will also create a further threat to our privacy and security. The balance between the benefits to our economic and social lives and the need to protect our personal information needs to be estimated and upheld. Therefore, the European Commission through the questionnaire in this consultation process tries to estimate what importance EU citizens place on these values and how far the data protection should stretch in respect of IoT.

The deadline for sending replies is set on the 12th of July.

Where did all that money go? - on not-so-hidden mobile phone charges

Spending sprees can be fun, especially if you are in need of some retail therapy. Spending money when we did not intend it rarely leaves anyone feeling like a winner, though. A recent study on mobile phone use, conducted by in the UK, showed that we are wasting ca. £5 billion a year because we either have not chosen for the best tariff for our needs or we are unaware of extra costs that go with a deal we have chosen (Mobile phone users 'wasting £5bn a year' by staying on expensive tariffs and running up extra charges, study claims). Mobile phone users rarely are aware of the exact amount of free minutes, free texts as well as their data allowance that the contract they concluded with the phone company gives them. The attention is drawn to the use of smartphones that have complicated the calculations for consumers. And so, we spend £173 million for additional access to the internet on smartphones a year. Most of us are unaware that using Twitter or Facebook applications on our stmartphone adds up to the usage of data. But the ignorance and lack of knowledge runs deeper, up to the point that it is hard to estimate for mobile phone users what spending 'one megabyte' of data means in practice, i.e., how many songs can be downloaded from iTunes, watched on YouTube website, how many emails could be sent or downloaded.

On average, we could save ca. £194 a year if we paid more attention when concluding a contract and chose a deal that fits better with our usage of the phone, which seems quite a lot in the time of financial crisis.

Teaching Consumer Law conference

Teaching Consumer Law Conference

On May 18th and 19th, the Center for Consumer Law at the University of Houston Law Center will hold its sixth bi-annual Teaching Consumer Law Conference.

This year’s theme is “Teaching Consumer Law in an Evolving Economy.” This is the only conference devoted exclusively to the teaching of consumer law, and is designed for those currently teaching consumer law, as well as anyone who is interested in teaching or just wants to know more about consumer law issues. More than 30 presenters will discuss issues ranging from Fringe Banking, Debt Collection and Advertising, to Foreclosure, Payments and Arbitration. There also are several presentations discussing consumer law from an international perspective. Presenters include law faculty, adjunct faculty, and practicing attorneys. For more information and a registration form, go to .

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

ACTA referred to the CJEU

Last week the European Commission decided the details of its referral of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to the CJEU in order to clarify whether it does not infringe any fundamental rights (Update on ACTA's referral to the European Court of Justice). The broad scope of the referral question is supposed to allow the CJEU to conduct a detailed examination of the character of the ACTA and to see whether it does not infringe such principles as, e.g., the freedom of expression, freedom of information, data protection rights, as well as the right to property. Taking into account protests of the EU citizens (and, more generally, worldwide online communities) against the introduction of the ACTA and other connected to it acts (see our article: Don't ______ the internet!), it does not come as a surprise that the European Commission wants to alleviate some doubts and fears as to the functioning of the ACTA.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


On Friday 27 and Saturday 28 April 2012, the Institute for Law and Economics of the University of Chicago Law School will host a conference on 'European Contract Law: A law-and-economics perspective'. The contributions to the conference will, among other topics, assess the newly proposed Common European Sales Law:

'The movement to harmonize European contract law generated various proposals for uniform statutes and optional instruments, culminating by the recent Draft Common European Sales Law. This ambitious reform envisions a uniform Sales Law for Europe with strong consumer protections, enacted by every member nation. Transactors will be able to choose this law to govern their transaction in place of existing contract law.

The Chicago conference brings together a group of leading scholars from Europe and from the University of Chicago, exploring the law and economics perspectives of the proposed harmonization. Is such an optional statute a desirable regulatory tool? What economic goals might it serve? Are the protections enacted in it suitable? What can be learned from the American experience with uniform commercial laws?'

More information and the programme can be found on the conference website.

Towards no stress driving

Today, the European Commission presented a proposal for simplifying car registration rules in the EU. The Commission considers vehicle registration problems to be among the main difficulties European citizens face in their daily lives and seeks to improve the regulatory framework for this problem.

The European Commission's memo on the proposal provides some interesting facts and figures, such as:
'- There are more than 300 million registered cars, buses, trucks and vans in Europe. Most of these will not be concerned by this proposal which concerns only the cars, buses, trucks and vans that frequently go across the borders within the EU. It is estimated that 3.5 million vehicles are transferred to another Member State per year.
 - In the period 2000-2011, the Commission handled 114 official complaints about car registration problems while the Court of Justice delivered 17 judgments and orders about car registration.
- Three quarters of the public authorities say they contact the registration authorities in the Member State, where the motor vehicle was previously registered, in order to get information needed for re-registration. Moreover all respondents' confirm having problems when dealing with registration authorities.'

The Commission's proposal introduces the principle that a car should be registered in the EU country where its owner lives. Other Member States may not ask her or him to register the car with them, even if the car owner spends a longer period there. According to the proposal, the same principle applies for companies: cars, buses, vans and trucks should be registered in the EU country where the main office is established. 

Furthermore, the proposal is considered to be beneficial for the tourism industry: According to the Commission's expectations, car-rental companies will save substantially under the new rules, as they will be able to transfer cars to another EU country during the holiday periods without re-registration. This could result in lower prices for renting a car during the holidays.

See the European Commission's press release and website for further information.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

European Citizens' Initiatives

If you ever feel that European institutions are not properly doing their job, since you have great ideas how to protect, e.g., consumer rights in the EU that are currently not reflected in the EU legal acts, well, your time has come.

This Sunday, on the 1st of April, a new project was launched by the European Commission: European Citizens' Initiative (it was not a prima aprilis joke) on the basis of the Regulation 211/2011 of 16 February 2011 on the citizens' initiative. Basically, this project allows EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies. Citizens may come together and approach the European Commission with a proposal for a new EU legislation. A website was made on which all the rules of this project are explained, and through which Citizens' Initiatives may be reported.

To begin with, a citizens' committee made up of at least seven EU citizens who resident in at least seven different EU Member States needs to register an initiative (in any of the official languages of the EU). The proposal must fall within the scope of the European Commission's authority to draft legislation and must not be manifestly contrary to the values of the EU. From the moment of registration, the committee has 12 months to collect statements of support for its initiative from at least seven Member States. The support from each Member State needs to be higher than 750 times the number of Members of the European Parliament for that Member State (one million citizens from at least 7 Member States are needed). Anyone of voting age for European Parliament elections can support an initiative (18, except for Austria - 16), either on paper or online. The number of statements of support needs to be certified by the competent authorities in the Member States.

The European Commission has three months to examine the initiative and decide how to act on it. The organisers will be able to explain their initiative in details at meetings with the EC, as well as at a public hearing at the European Parliament. The initiative will end with the publication of the Communication by the European Commission explaining what actions, if any, will be taken, and its reasoning. (Commission fires starting gun on European Citizens' Initiative)

FAQ may be found here.

Black list of air carriers

Protection of air passengers in the EU stretches beyond giving them certain rights. The European Commission also holds the European list of air carriers which are for safety reasons subject to an operating ban or operational restriction within the EU. Today, the list had been updated for the 19th time. The current list may be consulted on this website.