Directions of the Development of the European Consumer Protection Law — an Outline
The Community beginnings of consumer protection policy go back to the adoption by the European Council of the first consumer protection programme in 1975. Initially, this protection strategy was directly connected to the development and functioning of the internal market. Consumer protection was to be an outcome of properly functioning mechanisms used by entrepreneurs to compete for clients. With the Treaty of Maastricht, consumer protection
policy became an autonomous objective of the Community. However, European-level regulations concerned areas closely connected with the common market and were based on ensuring minimum, uniform harmonisation standards in all member states. Over the last few years, we have witnessed a change in this approach in favour of horizontal regulations and a full harmonisation model, which is justified both by the necessity to strengthen the internal market and by the development of high standards of consumer protection. The first of these objectives is within the exclusive competences of the European Union, while the second can be described as legislative powers shared between member states and the Community. Initiatives proposed by EU bodies within the latter area should be convincingly substantiated so that member states could accept them. So far, there has been no approval for full harmonisation as proposed by the European Commission on 8 October 2008 with regard to consumer rights. This undoubtedly testifies to a growing awareness among member states that they can have a significant impact on the acquis communautaire.