Chapter 1: The Evolution of Consumer Policy in the European Union
THE CHALLENGE OF CONSUMER POLICY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION Consumer protection . . . has a bearing on what is probably the most central issue of European economic integration, for it brings into very sharp relief the dialectics of open borders, protectionism, and bona fide intervention of the Member State to protect legitimate societal values and goals even if at the expense of interrupting the free flow of goods on which the idea of a common marketplace is postulated. To understand the problematics of consumer protection in the common market context is to understand the core issue of European market integration.1 This challenging observation remains as pertinent today as when it was written, two decades and four formal revisions of the Treaty ago. Why should there be a consumer policy at EU level? Isn’t the quest to create a more efficient, competitive, border-free economy for Europe itself amply beneficial to the interests of consumers? From this standpoint one would celebrate the EC Treaty provisions governing the free movement of goods, persons and services across borders coupled to the competition rules as in themselves vibrant instruments of consumer policy (see Chapter 2 of this book). Perhaps this is so – but where does this leave the scope for states to select patterns of market regulation that suit their own consumers’ particular preferences? And can there truly be a common market without a comprehensive framework of common rule-making established at European level? These are deeply intriguing questions, and they are not cleanly answered by the EC...
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