European Union consumer policy : a critique : an examination of consumers' economic rights across borders
The field chosen for this study is that of European Union policy on consumer protection. Its focus specifically relates to the ability of EU citizens as consumers to exercise their economic rights across borders within the Single Market. The study principally examines consumer protection policies, but takes account of the role of EU competition policy in monitoring and shaping the market framework. The study explores not only the legal embodiment of these consumer rights, but the ability of consumers to access them in practice; thus the study also focuses on issues related to the enforcement of consumers' economic rights and their realisation in practice. The purpose of this study is to enquire into the principal reasons for the rise of the consumer domain in the EU policy-making frame. It is argued that the Commission has become increasingly aware of the disaffection with which many EU citizens view the process of integration. It has tried to improve the functioning of EU consumer protection policy, with particular reference to the exercise of consumers' economic interests across borders, as a way of legitimising the Single Market in the eyes of the consumer. A central component of this strategy has been the use of the rhetoric of the 'citizen consumer'. The Commission has attempted to compensate for the constraints under which it operates with regard to proper enforcement in respect of consumers' economic rights by complementing the indirect measures based on competition policy with a combined approach of direct measures, based on legislation, soft-law and de-centralised initiatives.