The EU has developed a set of rules on the consumers’ economic interests to provide a level playing field to companies and equal consumer conditions to citizens in the single market. The CPC network was set up to allow national enforcement authorities to work closely together to ensure compliance with these rules and tackle cross-border infringement cases. The rules and conditions for the cooperation between the national authorities and the Commission in this network are set out in the CPC Regulation (2006/2004/EC).
The CPC Regulation provides mechanisms for mutual assistance requests to address concrete breaches of EU legislation involving at least two EU countries. Within this scheme, a national authority can use its administrative powers to deal with infringements perpetrated by a company located in its territory but harming the collective interest of consumers in another EU country. Issues and infringement cases dealt with by the CPC relate to a significant number of EU Directives and Regulations, and may cover matters including: unfair or misleading commercial practices, unfair contract terms, consumers’ rights to information, guarantee rights and specific rights in cases of distance selling or e-commerce. Each year the authorities in the CPC network conduct a coordinated screening of websites (‘sweep’) in a given sector to check their compliance with EU consumer laws and follow-up on possible infringements.
Five years after it came into force, the functioning of this Regulation is to be reviewed to assess whether it achieves its objectives or whether it needs strengthening and how it should be improved. On the basis of the review, the Commission will report on the functioning of the CPC Regulation and will present an outlook on appropriate steps to the European Parliament and the Council in 2014. As part of the review process, an independent evaluation was carried out in 2012. It concluded positively on the overall enforcement value added brought by the CPC framework and on the benefits for consumers, businesses and authorities. It recommended a number of clarifications and improvements in the areas of powers available to national authorities and of national procedural fragmentation. It also called for enhanced coordination, better alert systems and intelligence sharing and a stronger role for the Commission. The European Consumer Summit, held in March 2013, with 480 representatives of various stakeholders groups confirmed the need to step up enforcement efforts and to revisit the CPC mechanism to increase its efficiency. This public consultation is another key component of the review process.