Europe Day 2023, on the 9th of May, marks the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration of 1950 and the creation of the European Union. Europe Day 2023 in Ireland also celebrates the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s EU membership.
EU membership has transformed consumer rights in Ireland to date. Consumer rights in the European Union were at the heart of European legislation from the very beginning, and have served European consumers everywhere on the basis of the five original fundamental consumer principles: the right to health and safety, the right to protection of consumer economic interests, the right to compensation, the right to information and education, the right to representation.
Since its accession to the EU on the 1st of January 1973, Ireland’s citizens, as consumers, have benefited from an array of legal instruments such as:
- Air passenger rights
- Package holidays
- Online shopping
- Unfair commercial practices
- Product guarantees and returns
- Pricing and payments
The European Union’s consumer law regulations and directives have made purchasing goods and services safer for Irish consumers across the EU and between Members States. Consumers have the right to clear and correct information about goods or services before making online purchases. There is a requirement for a ‘CE’ conformity mark on many products, indicating the manufacturer’s compliance with safety standards. Future rules will be implemented giving citizens details about a product’s durability, reparability, and environmental impact. Misleading advertising and unfair commercial practices such as aggressive sales tactics, false claims, and misleading information are prohibited, as well as advertising targeted at children. Food labelling is also required to include nutrition and origin details for processed and unprocessed foods, as well as allergens. The EU has also ensured the safety of cosmetic products and banned animal testing for cosmetics. The liberalisation of the communications market has given consumers better choices for Internet and telecoms providers. The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) protects consumers from unsafe food products and enables the swift withdrawal of dangerous non-food products from the market. The EU-wide Online Dispute Resolution platform provides a one-stop-shop for resolving disputes over online purchases for Irish consumers. Finally, nearly 30 years ago, the European Commission created the first incarnation of the ‘European Consumer Centres’, which were later unified into a collaborative ‘Network’.
The European Consumer Centres Network has been an essential part of the EU consumer rights landscape over the last two decades. The European Consumer Centre Ireland is a member of the Network, which offers consumers across the European Union advice on their consumer rights and legal protections when shopping and travelling in another European Union Member State or European Economic Area country. We are one of the EU representations and agencies operating in Ireland through the European Commission Single Market Consumer Programme. Find the European Consumer Centres Network activity report for 2022 here.
On the basis of transposed or directly applicable EU legislation, Irish consumers have a range of options to obtain redress. When problems do arise between consumers (shoppers) and traders (businesses), consumer-trader dispute resolution tools help the parties resolve issues quickly and effectively, at low or no cost. Learn all about each of these options, among which is the European Consumer Centre Ireland’s own dispute resolution assistance service:
- European Consumer Centres (cross-border complaints only)
- ODR platform (national and cross-border consumer disputes). ECC Ireland is the designated point of contact for the ODR platform queries in Ireland and will assist consumers who need support with questions and submitting their complaints.
- Alternative dispute resolution bodies (all consumer complaints)
- FIN-NET (for financial services disputes only)
- National consumer bodies (national consumer disputes, and consumer rights enforcement)
- Legal action via the in-country and cross-border Small Claims Procedure, European Payment Order, and national courts (national and cross-border consumer disputes)
The latest chapter in the consumer legislation story is the New Consumer Agenda up to 2025, which addresses the green and digital transitions undertaken throughout the EU and institutes new measures aimed at improving enforcement by public authorities in the Member States, including Ireland. Its main priorities are:
- The green transition
- The digital transformation
- Effective enforcement of consumer rights
- Specific needs of consumer groups
- International cooperation
For a rundown of consumer rights in the European Union, head over to this user-friendly infographic by the European Commission here.
To get advice and assistance with consumer questions and disputes pertaining to cross-border online shopping within the European Union,
please contact ECC Ireland here.