Chapter 3: The law and practice of harmonisation
It was explained in Chapter 1 that the bulk of the material which is treated in this book as ‘EU consumer policy’ has its source in the EU’s programme of legislative harmonisation. The purpose of Chapter 1 was to place that important strand in the evolution of EU consumer policy in its proper wider context. The entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 was the landmark date for the explicit formal recognition of consumer protection as an EU competence (now found in Article 169 TFEU), but not only before, but also after, that date the EU’s legislative track record relevant to the consumer has been predominantly composed of the harmonisation of national laws of consumer protection. The purpose of this chapter is to focus more closely on some of the ambiguities and controversies that attend the crafting of a programme of consumer protection in the name of market-making harmonisation. These concern issues relevant to the quality of the legislative acquis as well as the deeper constitutional questions about whether what has been done is truly legally valid. It also addresses the increasingly contested debate about what should be the effect of EU legislative harmonisation on residual national competence in the area occupied by the EU measure – the choice between minimum or maximum harmonisation.
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