EU Funds for Consumer Protection

Article written by Kurt Cortis – Executive, MEUSAC
Published in The Malta Independent – 19.05.2020

EU citizenship brings about a multitude of rights and freedoms as enshrined within the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. In fact, along the years such rights have only increased, as the rise in globalisation and technological advancement brought about new concerns and thus new rights to be protected.

Nowadays, we have become so accustomed to these basic rights and freedoms, such as the right to move freely around Europe to live, work, and study, that we take things for granted. Nevertheless, the EU continually strives to safeguard our rights and freedoms through the development of legislation and policy; providing enforcement and promotion.

In the last decade, the EU established the Consumer Rights Directive which harmonises the rights of consumers across the EU. The Directive sets out rules on contracts between consumers and businesses, establishing certain basic consumer rights; including rules on excessive payment fees, information requirements or the right to withdraw from a contract, to name a few. In 2019, the EU further amended its Consumer Rights Directive for better enforcement and modernisation of Union consumer protection rules.

In this regard, the Consumer Programme was created as an EU funding mechanism with the general objective to ensure a high level of consumer protection through the empowerment of European consumers. Ultimately, it is the aim of the EU to support growth and competitiveness within the Union by strengthening consumer protection, as consumers are placed at the heart of the internal market and thus are paramount to the success of the EU’s overall strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

More specifically, the Consumer Programme seeks to consolidate and enhance product safety, through effective market surveillance throughout the Union; to continuously provide consumers with information and education with regards to their rights, whilst also supporting consumer organisations; to further develop and reinforce consumer rights, through smart regulatory action and improving access to simple and low-cost redress; and to support enforcement of consumer rights by strengthening cooperation between national enforcement bodies.

The Consumer Programme is funded directly by the European Commission, meaning that calls are periodically issued by an Executive Agency of the European Commission known as Chafea. Both public and private entities are eligible to apply for the calls under the Consumer Programme. However, the eligibility of such entities may vary from one call to another, depending on the rules specified in the guidelines of each call.

Although organisations are the direct beneficiaries of the programme, EU consumers are the ultimate target group of the actions undertaken and therefore stand to benefit the most. In fact, as a direct result of such projects, EU consumers benefit from having at their disposal better consumer organisations.

The Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA) is the relevant national authority tasked with the promotion and protection of consumer rights and welfare in Malta. Through continuous education and information, MCCAA strives to empower consumers, whilst also encouraging traders and service providers to adopt commercial practices that benefit consumers and hence foster healthy customer relationships.

In 2019, MEUSAC assisted MCCAA to apply for one of the calls that were issed under the Consumer Programme last year. The MCCAA’s proposal was selected for funding. Through this project, the MCCAA aims to improve its ability to further facilitate consumers’ redress, through training of its staff, and by improving their online alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism, through the digitisation of the ADR process. Ultimately, this project seeks to enhance the MCCAA’s level of service, consistency in implementation and better access to qualified resources for the benefit of consumers. This project has a budget of almost €120,000.

There are currently two open calls for proposals under the Consumer Programme: the first seeks to support enforcement of consumer rights in particular by strengthening cooperation between national enforcement bodies and by supporting consumers with advice, whilst the second aims to facilitate the consumers’ access to ADR entities compliant with Directive 2013/11/EU – including through measures for vulnerable consumers, developing the networking of national ADR entities, promoting monitoring activities on the functioning and the effectiveness of dispute resolution mechanisms. The deadlines for the above-mentioned calls are the 10th and 30th June, respectively.

MEUSAC can support entities to apply for calls under the Consumer programme, as well as other EU funding opportunities. For more information on the Consumer Programme or on any other matter related to EU funding, kindly contact MEUSAC on funding.meusac@gov.mt or 2200 3300.

« Back