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Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC)

The Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Network consists of authorities responsible for enforcing EU consumer protection laws to protect consumers’ interests in EU and EEA countries.

The new CPC Regulation applies from 17 January 2020. It introduces several improvements so that EU consumer protection laws can be better enforced.

CPC and the Single Market – why does it matter?

The new CPC Regulation improves the current framework by putting in place stronger mechanisms to investigate and tackle widespread infringements especially those of Union dimension.Have you encountered problems when buying goods or services from a trader abroad? Contact the European Consumer Centres network for help.

Key messages

  • Stronger powers for consumer law enforcers across the EU to protect consumers from non-compliant traders;
  • More rigorous coordinated enforcement on widespread infringements of consumer law at EU level to boost consumer confidence in the Digital Single Market. The Commission also plays a stronger coordination role and can trigger coordinated actions by alerting the network;
  • Revamped CPC framework for administrative cooperation between authorities is supported by a modern IT tool implemented via the Internal Market Information System.

Facts and figures

Number of CPC cases

 

Priorities

  • Continue working together with national authorities and stakeholders to ensure that the new cooperation mechanism is implemented consistently across the EU and that stakeholders are also on-board;
  • Tackle the latest scams and digital fraud promptly to ensure minimal consumer detriment (e.g. COVID-19 related, delayed delivery, substandard service, faulty items, financial loss);
  • Target non-compliant traders by launching coordinated actions based on the new procedures under the CPC Regulation to address widespread issues that are extremely important to consumers across the EU;
  • Continue building the capacity of the network to conduct online investigations, also by driving forward the e-enforcement academy project;
  • Actively promote international cooperation with non-EU countries in existing international fora and through bilateral international agreements.

Achievements

A) Coordinated actions

The CPC network has already tackled several EU-wide issues:

What is a “coordinated action”?

National authorities in EU and EEA countries, with the steering of the Commission, coordinate their investigation and enforcement approaches to effectively tackle widespread infringements of EU consumer laws. After various signals on the alleged infringement and the review of the commercial practices of traders involved, CPC Authorities can decide to launch a coordinated action. Following the coordinated investigation phase they might adopt a Common Position, in which they inform the trader about their concerns. Subsequently CPC Authorities and the Commission start discussions with the trader to make him comply with EU consumer laws or take enforcement measures in a coordinated manner.

Find out more about coordinated actions.

  • Major online platforms (e.g. Allegro, Amazon, Alibaba (AliExpress), Cdiscount, eBay, Facebook (Facebook, Facebook Marketplace, Instagram), Microsoft Bing, Google (Google Ads, YouTube), Rakuten, Wish and Verizon Media (Yahoo) stepped up their efforts to combat COVID-19 related scams on their websites; thanks to the dialogue with the CPC network and the Commission the platforms took down hundreds of millions of misleading advertisements of products in high demand because of the pandemic;
  • AliExpress committed to ensure that its practices as well as those of its traders respect EU consumer law and pledged to update their General Terms & Conditions, to guarantee that they be drafted in plain and intelligible language and do not create a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations to the detriment of consumers;
  • Booking.com and Expedia pledged to improve how it presents offers, discounts and prices;
  • Airbnb improved and clarified how it presents offers;
  • Unfair terms in social media contracts: Facebook, Twitter and Google+ updated their terms of service and implemented a dedicated procedure so that consumer authorities can signal problematic content;
  • Unclear conditions for car rentals: Avis, Europcar, Enterprise, Hertz and Sixt improved the transparency of their offers and how they handle damages;
  • Apple iTunes and Google Play created information on in-app purchases.

B) Sweeps

What is a “sweep”?

A “sweep” is a set of checks carried out simultaneously by national enforcement authorities to identify breaches of EU consumer law in a particular sector.
In the enforcement phase, the authorities ask the traders concerned to take corrective action.

The Commission coordinates the sweep action.

Find out more about sweeps.

In 2020, for the first time ever, the sweep focused on ‘greenwashing', the practice by which companies claim they are doing more for the environment than they actually are. The “sweep” analysed green online claims from various business sectors such as garments, cosmetics and household equipment. National consumer protection authorities had reason to believe that in 42% of 344 examined cases the claims were exaggerated, false or deceptive and could potentially qualify as unfair commercial practices under EU rules.

C) Other activities

  • An e-enforcement academy was set up to boost the CPC network and the ability of product safety networks to conduct online investigations. The first and second phase of the project (2017-19) were both successful, providing national CPC and product safety authorities with various deliverables. The network finalised the appraisal for the third phase of the project to further strengthen the enforcement toolkit of CPC authorities and to ensure continuous and up to date training for enforcement authorities, including training for advanced users. A new e-enforcement academy 2 started in April 2021 and its activities will be available for the duration of 18 months.
  • EU eLab will be a digital toolbox to conduct on-line investigations for national consumer authorities addressing or preventing mass-scale breaches to EU consumer law by traders marketing and selling on the Internet, as well as safety concerns of the products using advanced or emerging technologies. DG JUST is currently working with the consumer protection authorities on preparing and testing the components of the eLab (target go-live date: end 2021/early 2022).
  • CPC authorities are now using the CPC knowledge exchange platform, an IT tool developed in 2014-15 to support collaborative work and share results with the wider CPC network;
  • CPC Market Watch is an internal EU monitoring project launched in 2019 to collect information on market trends that might affect consumer interests across the EU/EEA;
  • The CPC network cooperates with the network of European Consumer Centres and representatives of various EU-level consumer associations to gather information and detect threats faster.
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