Thursday, 30 August 2012

Spoiled for choice or well-informed?

Picture obtained from
 Comparison websites have great potential for the developments of online shopping: they help consumers in saving time and making informed choices. However, according to a recent BEUC position paper, for their potential to be appropriately developed, they need to be reliable. This means, that they have to be as transparent as possible as to a variety of factors, such as:
-          The ownership;
-          The way they are financed;
-          The frequency with which they are updated;
-          Their geographic coverage;
-          The methodology they employ;
-          Their coverage of the concerned sector (all providers, some providers…).
The provision of this fundamental information, in any case, should not turn into an overload for the users, thus emphasis should be put on the quality of this information, i.e. on the interest which the latter carries for consumers (the price shown, for instance, should be as “final” as possible), without  highlighting price at the expenses of other conditions which consumers should also be aware of. At the same time, the way the information is organised is important: comparability should be granted according to all relevant product characteristics, including delivery. In case of ranking, the consumer should know what factors shape it in order to assess its reliability.
Finally, supervisory authorities should take charge of monitoring comparison activities to ensure consumer trust.

Smart meters

Managing energy consumption in Europe is one of the issues that European Commission is busy with. (Cities getting smart) Since households are responsible for 40% of total energy consumption, educating consumers on smart energy consumption and changing their energy consumption habits plays a significant role in energy policy. One way to change these habits is by installing smart meters in all/most households in Europe. (Smart Grids) What are smart meters?

"Smart meters display household's energy consumption in real-time, giving users the possibility to monitor fluctuations in their energy consumption both locally and remotely – through wireless systems, the internet and smart phones." (Consumers unaware of smart meters ahead of EU-wide roll-out)

The European Commission requires the Member States to submit by 3 September 2012, their cost-benefit analysis on the deployment of smart meters. (Commission recommendation of 9 March 2012) If the analysis is positive, then the Member States should roll-out smart meters to consumers, while European Commission would set European standards on them. By 2020 at least 80% of consumers should be equipped with intelligent metering system.

At this point it seems that consumers are mostly unaware of smart meters. (Research in the UK) Representatives of consumers expressed their doubts as to the benefits of using smart meters for all consumers, since in low-income households the energy consumption is often not able to be further reduced. Therefore, the BEUC does not believe that the use of smart meters should be mandatory. (Empowering consumers through smart metering) Also the EDPS had some issues with the potential infringement of data protection regulations by the use of smart meters. (EDPS' opinion)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

EU vs. hackers

The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) published this week a report on cyber incidents reporting in the EU. Cyber security incidents often affect millions of citizens, businesses and consumers (e.g., in 2012 millions of business network passwords were exposed through hacking of LinkedIn; in 2011 due to a failure in the UK datacenter millions of users of BlackBerry across the EU and globally could not send or receive emails), but pursuant to the report these incidents are often not reported or even not detected.

Dr Marnix Dekker and Chris Karsberg, the report’s co-authors, argue: “Cyber incidents are most commonly kept secret when discovered, leaving customers and policymakers in the dark about frequency, impact and root causes.” (EU agency ENISA analyses cyber security legislation & spots implementation gaps; incidents remain undetected or not reported)

The study analyses the adopted EU measures on mandatory incident reporting from the Telecom package, e-Privacy Directive as well as the proposed e-ID regulation and the Data Protection reform, showing the differences and commonalities of their provisions and trying to create an overview of the EU cyber security strategy (see: roadmap). Areas for improvement have been identified in the paper, as well. Hopefully, new measures developed by the ENISA, like an incident reporting format will help national regulators to overcome the lack of transparency and increase the amount of information about these incidents. Harmonisaton of these issues is crucial, taking into account that often cyber security incidents taking place in one country impact citizens in other Member States.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Is living longer still worth it?

European consumers shop not only for various goods, but also for services and soon an increase of interest in purchasing new insurance policies among European women is to be expected. Why? As of 21 December 2012, on the basis of the CJEU's judgement in the case Test Achats (the Belgian Consumer Association), the insurers will no longer be able to calculate costs and benefits of insurance based on a person's gender. This gender-neutral pricing is based on the principle of equality expressed in the Gender Directive of 2004 that requires unisex pricing for European consumers. This ruling is, however, to the detriment of European women, who 'traditionally enjoyed cheaper life insurance because of their longer life expectancy'. (EU Directive Could Send Women Running to Buy Life Insurance) Some consumer organisations expect that the insurance premiums for women could rise by a third (Life insurance premiums set to soar). At the same time, certain insurance companies assure that their premiums should not be overly influenced by this ruling (e.g., It remains to be seen whether these premiums will indeed rise and whether shopping for a cheaper insurance companies will be on many women agendas as of 2013.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Once upon another time

Times are changing, also in the digital world. An infograph, made by Best Education Sites, gives a nice overview of the development of the Internet over the past 10 years.

Click here for the full graph. For a collection of informative pictures on a variety of topics, see also Infographic Directory.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

No more logos on cigarette packs in the EU?

It is unlikely that anyone would consider smoking a healthy habit. It still may be seen as a sign of 'being cool', but the times had changed and the Mad Men-era where success was celebrated with a cigarette in one hand is long gone. In more and more Member States a ban has been introduced on smoking in public places. Still, more means on deterring Europeans from smoking are being considered - some of them could further restrict advertising and packaging rules of tobacco products.

The European institutions consider introducing a ban on logos on cigarette packs, for example, within its review of 2001 Tobacco Products Directive, which is to be published in the fall. A spokesman for the European Commission, Antonio Gravili, said during a news briefing that introduction of European rules on plain packaging of tobacco products is being considered. (EU considering cigarette logo ban to deter smoking) Such a ban is already in force in Australia, and as of December all cigarettes sold there will have to be wrapped in plain, olive packaging. This governmental ban was questioned by British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and other tobacco companies but the Australia's High Court upheld the ban. Tobacco companies claim that such a ban infringes their intellectual property rights and boosts sales of fake or illegally imported cigarettes. (WHO welcomes landmark decision from Australia's High Court on tobacco plain packaging act and Australia's plain packaging wins against global tobacco firms)

Other options that are being discussed in the Commission are: printing larger graphic images on cigarette packs of the diseases linked to smoking (though how much larger can it get, really?), covering electronic cigarettes with the Directive.

This all comes among the World Health Organisation's prediction that smoking could kill 8 million people every year by 2030. (WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic - executive summary) Another survey showed that Europe has the world's highest rate of smokers aged 13-15. (Exposure of children to environmental tobacco smoke and Global Youth Tobacco Survey)

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The architecture of European consumer law

Another addition to the Summer reading list: Hans Micklitz (EUI) published a paper on the architecture of European consumer law and the need for innovation of its structure.

The abstract reads as follows:
'The paper is a translation of the Gutachten prepared for the 69. Deutschen Juristentag to be held in September 2012. It pleads for a separate consumer law code outside private law codifications. The benchmarks are: rethinking the concept of the consumer (the vulnerable consumer and the consumer/customer), focussing beyond traditional consumer law on internet sales and on consumer services (telecom, energy, transport, financial services), integrating and developing a consistent approach to consumer law enforcement via individual and collective action, via ADR, courts and administrative bodies. The solution is seen in a movable system (bewegliches System) that allows for connecting substantive rights and remedies to the different concepts of consumers, vulnerable, confident and responsible.'

The paper can be downloaded here.

For more information on the German Juristentag, please refer to the conference website.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Your voice in Europe

The European Commission published some interim results of the currently running public consultation on citizens' rights (see an earlier post, 'Europe and you'). So far, more than 5,500 EU-citizens have answered the Commission's questionnaire. The consultation is open till 9 September 2012.

More information is available on the 'Your rights, your future' website. See also the Commission's 'Your voice in Europe' website for an overview of public consultations.

Improving health through online services

Summer holiday of the EU allows me to catch up with certain EU consumer policies that I have missed previously this year. I thought I would share with my readers, the results of the Citizen Panel Survey that assess the patients' needs and expectations regarding the ICT for health. The internet can be used for health in many ways and forms, e.g.: EU citizens may consult the internet to find out more about a certain disease, they may download an application on their smartphones showing e.g. how many pollens are there in the air influencing their allergies, they could receive their prescriptions online, etc.

The European Commission placed the area of eHealth on the Digital Agenda with an aim to improve the health status and quality of life of Europeans. On the basis of the results of the survey, the EU institutions hope to develop typologies of digital healthcare users and measure the impact of the ICT and the internet on health status, health care demand and health management. The other goal is to identify factors that could either enhance or inhibit the role and use of Personal Health Systems from a citizen's perspective. The online survey was conducted in 2011 among EU citizens from 14 Member States (1000 per country), aged from 16 to 74 years (using the internet at least sporadically).

The sampled citizens use the ICT in health for following reasons:
  • 39% - to better understand a health problem or disease;
  • 36% - to find additional sources of information;
  • 35% - to develop knowledge;
  • 35% - to develop personal satisfaction;
  • 31% - to help a family member/friend who is ill;
  • 28% - to prevent illness or adopt a more healthy lifestyle;
  • 28% - to find a solution to or a treatment for a health problem;
  • 22% - to obtain different points of view about an issue;
  • 21% - to access online health service;
  • 11% - to participate in online discussions.
"With respect to the socio-demographic characteristics of the population, the perception of the importance of ICT in health as triggers is much more positive for women, young people, the middle aged, those with a tertiary education, the employed, students, and people in a bad state of health or with long standing illnesses." (p. 15)

As far as the barriers to use the ICT for health are concerned, the following have been mentioned:
  • 52% - lack of privacy;
  • 51% - lack of security;
  • 47% - lack of reliability;
  • 46% - lack of trust;
  • 38% - lack of liability;
  • 36% - lack of health literacy;
  • 33% - lack of knowledge;
  • 29% - lack of access to ICTs for health;
  • 28% - lack of motivation and interest;
  • 24% - lack of digital skills.
The survey showed also how rarely Europeans participate in ICT for health, e.g.:
  • 56% - have never bought medicine or vitamins online;
  • 60% - have never participate in online support groups for people with the same health issue;
  • 58% - have never used social networking sites for health and wellness issues;
  • 58% - have never used email or website to communicate with a doctor;
  • 52% - have never analysed the privacy policy for personal information in medicinal websites;
  • 79% - have never made an online consultation through videoconference with healthcare professionals;
  • 75% - have not received medical or clinical tests online;
  • 77% - have not accessed or uploaded medical results via a specialist provider (e.g. Google Health or Microsoft Vault);
  • 76% - have not accessed or uploaded medical results via an internet application provided by a health organisation;
  • 76.6% - have not used health or wellness applications on mobile telephones.
It seems, therefore, that the use of the ICT in health services is still significantly limited. However, as the study states it shows the "potential of ICT for Health to promote active and healthy individuals and increase empowerement". Not surprisingly, the EU citizens are more likely to consult the internet in order to find more information about their or others illness (after all, most of us turn to the internet as a huge encyclopedia). It is likely that a common issue with obtaining many e-services: the lack of trust in its privacy, security and reliability, stops the EU citizens from relying more heavily on eHealth services, e.g., when they would have to reveal their medical information online (even though 55% state that they would share their personal health information with their doctor online despite privacy issue). Still, this is something that the EU institutions should work on, since the improvement of eHealth services could lead to saving of time and travel costs for many citizens, as well as improve the options for EU citizens to take care of themselves.

Friday, 17 August 2012

CARRP - not a fish, but: a credit agreement relating to residential property

As we are all waiting for the European institutions to come back from their holiday and pick up where they left unresolved consumer law matters, certain problems will have to wait longer than others. In September there was supposed to be a vote in the European Parliament on the European directive on credit agreements relating to residential property (CARRP), but the news agencies inform that the vote was delayed until December 10. (Vote on European mortgage regulation delayed for three months) The proposal for this Directive was issued by the European Commission in March of 2011. (Mortgages: better protection for European consumers) In the coming months the European institutions will have more time, therefore, to discuss the provisions of this draft Directive.

If you have not yet heard of the CARRP and its goals, you should know that the CARRP is supposed to regulate more strictly advertising of mortgage credit, making sure that consumers do not get false expectations regarding the cost of the credit or its availability. Moreover, it would strengthen the supervision and regulation over institutions issuing mortgage credit as well as credit intermediaries. Another goal of the CARRP is to improve the information that is being given to consumers on mortgage credits (e.g., by creating a credit database), as well as to personalise it (through a European Standardised Information Sheet - ESIS). Consumers should also benefit from a harmonised annual percentage rate of charge. 

Last month the European Banking Industry Committee (EBIC) gave its opinion on the draft. One of its criticism is that the draft suggests that the Directive shall not apply to credit agreements in the form of overdraft facilities only where the consumer agrees to be exempted from the provisions of the Directive. However, the already binding Consumer Credit Directive gives mandatory consumer protection in cases of overdraft facilities, which pursuant to EBIC should lead to the exclusion of such credit agreements from the scope of application of the CARRP as a rule. One of the positively assessed elements of the CARRP is the introduction of more (and more clear) rules on what explanations should be given by lenders to consumers.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Summer reading

While many legal institutions are taking a Summer break, news on legislative processes and case law is somewhat scarce. Those of you (back or still) at work looking for some reading materials related to consumer issues may therefore take the opportunity to read up on the pending proposal for a Common European Sales Law (CESL) or on the legal, political and economic aspects of the ongoing economic crisis in the EU.

Some relatively recent reading tips on the CESL include:

Readers interested in economics and political science may want to consult Professor Eichengreen's reading list. Personally, I would add Sylvia Nasar's 'Grand Pursuit: A Story of Economic Genius', which beautifully recounts the development of economic theory from Dickens's times till today.

Be informed

Have you ever been disappointed by shops in another country closing at an earlier time than you thought? Or have you perhaps been pleasantly surprised by sales being held at a different time than you expected? In order to provide consumers with some practical information about shopping in different Member States, the UK European Consumer Centre has recently started publishing 'EU shopping guides'. These leaflets provide details about, for example, pricing, tax, opening hours and banking services in EU Member States. The first guide concerned the UK itself and was published at the occasion of the Olympic Games of this year. Shopping guides for other EU countries are being made available on the UK ECC's website as they appear.

Mondays are 'let's shop online'-days in Europe

Last month a new study was published about the way European consumers conduct their e-lives. It was conducted by a Japanese retail company, Rakuten and one of its main findings was that more people turn to e-commerce sites after work on a Monday (in the UK and Germany), than during any other time of the week. Apparently virtual shopping works just as well well as real life one in making us feel better when we are feeling a bit down (due to having gone back to work, again). Interestingly, in France such a peak appears on Wednesdays - when French children finish school early and their parents are more likely to get home early, too. Another finding is the opposite trend in the UK and France as to when smartphones and tablets are used for e-commerce. English commuters tend to shop more online on their way to work in the morning, while French ones do it on their way back home more often (between six and seven in the evening). (Study examines Brits' e-commerce habits) I hope European Commission has more luck than I did finding online the whole study (and not just its summaries) and will add it to its database on consumer shopping behaviour that should be consulted during any legislative process.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Things to do with e-waste or WEEE

When your computer or laptop dies... what do you do with it? One option is to just throw it away with your regular garbage, but that does not seem quite right, does it? Some consumers would be worried about it being revived by some e-wizard and someone gaining access to his personal data that could still be there on the computer. Fewer consumers would have a thought that it may not be environmentally friendly to throw electronic waste out with other garbage but would not know where to take it (or the collection point would be set somewhere far away from their home). Many consumers would just keep it in a drawer/cellar hoping that one day they would be able to throw it out safely.

Yesterday a new Directive entered into force that deals with waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). One of the goals of the Directive is that by February 2014 Member States enable consumers to return small e-waste at large retail shops or provide an even more effective waste disposal manner. (New rules on e-waste to boost resource efficiency)

Monday, 13 August 2012

Microsoft under investigation for limiting consumers' options

Consumers own many of their consumers' privileges to the healthy competition between businesses. Knowing that, the European institutions try to protect competition in the internal market - also in the online world. In 2009, the European Union settled antitrust proceedings with Microsoft, in which the company was accused of not granting enough access to rival browsers in their Windows software. Namely, the fact that Windows operating system is combined with a pre-installed Internet Explorer browser could be seen as an unfair competition practice towards all other producers of browsers. As a result of the settlement, the European consumers who bought a computer with a Windows operating system (which is a default for most of us), should have been offered a browser choice when launching Windows - instead of just having the Internet Explorer chosen as a default. However, last month it was proven that Microsoft's side of the deal was not fulfilled for their Windows 7 operating system. As a result, European internet users were not offered the browsers' choice as of February 2011. Microsoft blames this on a technical problem and denies any intent of infringement. As an apology the company offers to extend the agreed compliance period (until 2014) for an additional 15 months. The European institutions may, however, decide on fining the company this time. (EU investigates Microsoft over browsers)

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Inflated Visa fees ultimately paid by consumers?

Many Europeans are still on holidays and they are doubtlessly indulging in some cross-border shopping. They may want to be careful, though, when paying for their souvenirs with a Visa credit card (41% of payment cards issued in the EEA are Visa's credit and debit cards, and over 5 million retailers accept Visa payment cards). The European Commission raised its concerns as to high fees that Visa charges retailers when processing cross-border transactions, so-called "multilateral interchange fees" (MIFs - fees that are paid by retailers' banks to cardholders' banks). (Commission sends supplementary statement of objections to Visa) The preliminary conclusion of the EC is that MIFs harm price competition between banks, inflate the cost of payment card acceptance for retailers and ultimately raise prices for consumers. Visa considers the EC's position as hasty and confrontational, since they were trying to reach an agreement, preventing the European Commission from issuing the SSO (supplementary statement of objections). (EC raises concern over Visa fees)  Interestingly, the SSO concerns not only MIFs set by Visa in the EEA for cross-border transactions with consumer credit cards, but also to domestic transactions in eight Member States (Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and Sweden). This is just one formal step in the EU antitrust investigation against Visa.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

How to improve banking services

The European Commission published a summary of responses to the public consultation on bank accounts (Taking account of banking services). The aim of the public consultation was for stakeholders to share their views on transparency of bank fees, bank account switching and access to basic payment accounts. Based on the received responses the European Commission may decide to take further action in this field.


Not surprisingly, the summary shows that consumers and associations representing them are in favour of further action at EU level, while the financial industry's representatives see it as abundant. However, respondents from both categories reported problems in the retail banking sector with respect to the presentation and comparability of bank account fees. (If you can't explain it simply...)

"Almost all consumer groups reported difficulties in obtaining clear and simple information about charges and fees of bank accounts. Even with regulatory or voluntary measures, it seems problematic to understand “how relevant and useful” the information is for consumers and to ensure consumers’ financial awareness. Information is not hidden, but it is not presented in a clear way enabling consumers to make informed choices. Often, too much burden is put on consumers, who are expected to upgrade their financial knowledge. Limits of existing national measures include the disregard of vulnerable consumers’ needs.

Consumer and civil society organisations underlined the following main persisting shortcomings: complex and different business models used by banks across countries; issues linked to the offer of packaged services; varying charging structures and terminology across banks; the speed with which new and innovative products enter the market; cross-subsidisation within retail banking; and a lack of clear legislation in this area.

It was generally indicated that changes to the Payments Services Directive would not impact on these areas, given the different scope of this legal instrument."

Unanimously, consumers considered it a good idea to standardise the bank account fee terminology. That would facilitate comparison of fees held by different banks as well as enable promotion of the use of simple wording. This could be achieved, e.g., by introducing a standardised glossary of all terminology and lists of bank fees. If such lists of bank fees were introduced, then consumers should not have to look further in contract documents for other fees. It may be, therefore, necessary to ban the use of other bank fees than the ones listed. In order to enable easier comparison between bank fees, consumers considered it useful to have a comparison website run by public bodies. Additionally, consumers demand a clear and timely monthly information on actual fees paid, together with a yearly overview of all costs.


As far as switching bank accounts is concerned, again the representatives of consumers argued for establishing the Common Principles of the European Bank Industry Committee (EBIC) as mandatory (arguing that after three years from their adoption the implementation measures taken so far were poor), while the financial services industry's representatives believed they should remain voluntary. (How to switch bank accounts remains a mystery)

"Most respondents confirmed that banks offer a switching service, but also indicated that the service provided is often insufficient or ineffective. A minority stated that the service is not offered at all and consumers need to go to the former bank to cancel mandates and then set them up on the new account. The majority commented that the switching service offered is not fully in line with the Common Principles. The most common problems concern: the availability of information on bank websites and bank branches; bank staff awareness and readiness to inform and help consumers; transfers of direct debit mandates between banks; and non-compliance with the deadlines set by the Common Principles. Some noted that the presentation of the information on switching is not user-friendly and, in general, banks do not promote switching services. Others commented that it varies from bank to bank. (...)

Among those consumers who switched, problems with direct debits and standing orders were mentioned as the biggest source of difficulty. Other problems mentioned concern: the complexity of switching; no help in informing third parties; and the length of switching, including lengthy procedures for closing an account (e.g. on average 35 days in Italy). Some noticed that the risk connected with switching is placed entirely on consumers and third parties (to whom the consumer pays). Some respondents stressed that the combination of the risk of errors with doubts over benefits is discouraging consumers from switching. The complexity and lack of transparency of the market for current accounts makes consumers unwilling or unable to make effective choices, as consumers cannot be sure that the bank they would switch to would be better or less expensive than their current bank.

Tying and bundling of products were mentioned by stakeholders as serious obstacles, making switching impossible or very expensive. Examples were given of mortgage loans granted under the condition of opening a current account or the need to close a securities account when switching a current account. Some indicated that consumers in difficulty with repayments on a loan find it difficult to switch, due to impaired credit history. Another remarked on low confidence in non-binding rules with no sanctions for banks."

All in all, consumers considered the risk of misdirected payments as the main obstacle to effective bank switching, which could be remedied by the introduction of bank account number portability (or the portability of customer account numbers). An intermediate solution, could be the introduction of a re-routing system.


Consumers still find it difficult to access a basic payment account (see our recent post on Basic bank account...). The most recurring obstacle is the provision of adequate proof of identity. This is required by legislation on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing. Moreover, banks refuse access to basic payment account for consumers with risky financial conditions, e.g., undischarged bankruptcy, insufficient income, poor creditworthiness, overdrawn bank accounts, etc. Additionally, some respondents indicated problems due to high costs of basic accounts, sometimes charged in the form of penalty fees. The situation is made more complicated by banks inviting consumers who ask for basic payment account to take a regular (fee-based) bank account, as well as by unavailability of branches in certain geographic areas, which burdens especially vulnerable consumers (e.g., the elderly).

Friday, 3 August 2012

Colour your hair to feel European

Today the European Commission amended an old Directive 76/768/EEC relating to cosmetic products. The new Directive 2012/21/EU concerns... hair dyeing products.

Did you know that ca 60% of European women and ca 10% of European men colour their hair? It seems that with every year Europeans become more concerned with their looks and the sale of hair dye products increases. Nowadays, it does not take much to go overnight from being a blonde to becoming a redhead, etc., and such decisions are often (sadly) not thoroughly thought through. Sadly, since as any cosmetic products hair dyes may contain unsafe (or even toxic) for consumers substances. On the one hand it may be worth it to invest in keeping consumers' hair healthy and pay for a good hairdresser and a good hair dye. However, how are even professionals to know which of the substances contained in the hair dyes could be dangerous? The EC helps out here by taking into account recent scientific knowledge and restricting the use of 24 substances often included in hair dyes (additionally to already existing bans on the use of certain substances). The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) still needs to assess 45 substances that are suspect of having an adversary effect on consumers. More on hair dye products may be read here.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Building goes sustainable

Since the start of the economic crisis, the housing market has been less-than-flourishing in many Member States. 
In order to sustain recovery while promoting innovation (and energy saving!), the Commission has proposed an action plan  to stimulate investment in low energy building. 
In a couple of years, if the plan is adopted, it should become easier and cheaper to build the house of your dreams- or renew it with a sustainability agenda, even if you do not live in one of the countries (see table) which are already active in the sector. 
The Commission envisages a package including monetary incentives, awareness-raising and harmonisation of rules aiming at unifying the market and  fostering competition. A more sustainable housing market is possible, stay tuned for future developments!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Safe Toys' Story

The safety of consumer products is seen as one of the key consumer rights and its proper enforcement is especially needed when products are meant to be used by vulnerable consumers, such as children. The EU provides for strict safety requirements for toys, but aside the producers' and marketers' (of toys) compliance with these requirements, it is also necessary that EU consumers know what to look for when they buy goodies for their children. For example:

  • the EU consumers should always look for the "CE mark" which means that the toy is in compliance with the strict EU safety rules,

  • they should also pay attention to the age symbols which determine for what age the given toy is suitable (preventing choking hazards etc.).

More toy tips may be found on a campaign website. Within the "European Toy Safety" campaign, the European Commission launched a new video informing consumers how to buy safe toys and how to use them safely. (European Toy Safety Campaign: don't let accidents ruin your summer!)