The European Commission has published a press release announcing the launch of a new “Consumer Market Watch” process. This is a process which investigates how markets in various sectors of the economy perform from a consumer perspective. There are two steps to the new process. The first is a screening of retail markets against 5 key consumer indicators - prices, complaints, switching rates, satisfaction and safety - for patterns which could indicate market malfunctioning. The second phase is an in-depth, targeted consumer market investigation and corrective actions. The Consumer Market Watch process also benchmarks the strength of the consumer environment in different Member States and the degree of integration of the retail internal market.

The first screening results have now been published by the Commission and the key finding is that there is a lack of comparable, comprehensive consumer data in key areas. The Commission has announced three key areas for priority action in 2008:

  • Retail financial services. The Commission will carry out a targeted investigation in order to better understand the factors determining price transparency, comparability and mobility of customers in retail financial services. The results will be published within a year.
  • Cross border sales in tradable consumer goods (cameras, CDs, books). Consumer confidence in cross border trade remains low and price differentials in cross border tradable goods need to be studied. This will be a priority area for action and a report will be published in 2008.
  • Consumer redress. Consumer trust at the national and cross border level in getting complaints handled or obtaining redress effectively is low. Targeted work will be done in this area.

View European Commission launches new system of consumer investigations, 31 January 2008