Consumer Protection Follow-up

24 September 2002 – FOLLOW UP COMMUNICATION TO THE GREEN PAPER ON CONSUMER PROTECTION

Mr. D. Byrne
Commissioner DG SANCO
European Commission Rue de la Loi, 200
B-1049 Brussels

Brussels, 24 September 2002

Dear Mr. Byrne

Ref. Follow-up Communication to the Green Paper on EU Consumer Protection

In January 2002, AER submitted to the Commission a document with the views of commercial radio stations about the proposals set out in the Green Paper on Consumer Protection.

AER welcomes the opportunity to continue contributing to this wide and on-going debate and therefore wishes to bring into your attention the concerns of its members about the conclusions reached by the Commission after the Green Paper debate, which are contained in the Follow-up Communication published in June 2002.

All the points included in our submission to the Green Paper still apply:

1. AER doubts that a framework directive aimed at regulating advertising, marketing and business practices at EU level supplemented by targeted directives would add any value to what is already in place at national level. In our view, it would only represent further unnecessary burdens especially for the broadcasting sector, which is already highly regulated. Regulation should be kept to the minimum necessary.

2. AER believes that the EU can ensure legal certainty for business and consumers on the basis of the Internal Market principles of the “country of origin” control mechanism and “mutual recognition”.

3. Concerning advertising self-regulation (codes of conduct), AER believes it should remain nationally based in order to reflect the characteristics of each country. However, we agree that some important features should be common to all national systems (we bring your attention to the recently adopted EASA’s “Common principles and recommendations for operating advertising self-regulation best practice in Europe”). Advertising self-regulation codes should be written by industry and monitored by independent bodies supported by industry. There should be no legal consequences to codes and no need for public endorsement. This would threaten industry’s commitment and detract from the priority of self-regulation that is to serve consumers effectively at a minimum cost.

Concerning the new proposals presented by the Commission in the Follow-up Communication to the Green Paper on EU Consumer Protection, and as we said earlier, AER opposes the adoption of a framework directive based on a general clause, which would consist of two core elements: the unfairness of the practice; and a consumer detriment test. We still find a lack of clarity and definitions in the Commission’s proposals, therefore work needs to be done in this field. Also and as a general principle, full-scale harmonisation should be in our view the path of last resort and is in this case disproportionate.

We therefore ask the Commission to continue with the existing approach of specific measures designed to meet specific problems. Legislation should only be drafted in those cases where a need for harmonisation has been clearly identified. Furthermore, a full regulatory impact assessment should be carried out by the Commission before proceeding with its proposal of a framework directive.

Concerning the establishment of a group of experts from national governments, we urge the Commission to invite interested stakeholders to present their case on specific issues. This would certainly add transparency to the group’s work. AER would like to be consulted by the group when discussing any issue related to the broadcasting/advertising sector. We also recommend that the Commission consider a role for the EASA Executive as an Expert Practitioners Group to advise on member state implementation of advertising self-regulation.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to discuss any point of this letter further.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely

Sergio Natucci
President