Who: European Commission
When: 31 January 2013
Law stated as at: 20 February 2013
On 31 January 2013, the European Commission announced it was launching a “European Retail Action Plan” to seek to achieve a single market in retail. Part of this plan involves consulting on a Green Paper addressing unfair trading practices in the business-to-business food and non-food supply chain in the retail sector in Europe. More information about the proposed Action Plan and consultation can be found at:http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52013DC0037:EN:NOT.
The Commission recognises the importance and benefits of the retail andwholesale services sector to the EU economy but is concerned by the existing barriers it considers to hinder “the smooth functioning of cross-border sourcing, consumer access to cross-border retail services and market entry for retailers”. The actions proposed in the European Retail Action Plan relate to the following key priorities:
- Empowering consumers through better information;
- Improving accessibility to retail services by promoting an exchange of good practices between Member States on commercial and spatial planning;
- Fairer and more sustainable trading relationships along the food and non-food supply chain;
- Ensuring a better link between retail and innovation; and
- Creating a better work environment, for example through better matching the needs of employers and staff skills.
One of the main actions arising from the Action Plan is a Green Paper launching a consultation on unfair trading practices in the business-to-business food and non-food supply chain, which has been adopted simultaneously with the Action Plan. The three-month long consultation will help the Commission to assess the magnitude of unfair trading practices and their effect on the economy and competition. It will examine the effectiveness of self-regulatory and legislative frameworks put in place to address those practices at national level and will look into the question of whether Member States’ differing approaches have led to a fragmentation of the Single Market.
Would could all this mean from an advertising perspective?
The communications released by the Commission to date indicate that empowering consumers is a key objective of the current consultation and the Action Plan. The Commission wishes to speak with stakeholders to develop some good-practice guidelines and/or codes of conduct to facilitate consumers’ access to transparent and reliable information. It is hoped this will make it easier for consumers to then make better comparisons between retailers where matters such as price, quality and sustainability of goods and services are concerned.
The Commission has also indicated it wants consumers to be able to take full advantage of the Single Market through the use of comparison websites and that it would like a set of methodologies to be born from the consultation and Action Plan which can be used to measure and communicate the “overall environmental footprint of products and organisations”. This is likely to be due to the increase in ‘green claims’ over recent years which has been a focus where consumer protection is concerned.
Why this matters:
The Commission’s desire to give consumersimproved access to information could mean we see some proposals regarding disclosures in store and in advertising and marketing materials issued by retailers.
We could therefore see new sector-specific codes of practice which retailers will need to note when planning their communications.
Different Directorates-General of the Commission are looking after the various actions under the Action Plan and we are informed that the results of their work will be discussed in the framework of the Group on Retail Competitiveness that would “provide for a global overview of all the actions”. The Commission will monitor developments and report on the progress in implementing this Action Plan by issuing a report in 2015. In the meantime there will be
on-going discussions within EU institutions, with Member States, and with representatives of the retail sector and other relevant stakeholders (including consumers) through the Group on Retail Competitiveness.
Where the Green Paper on unfair trading practices in the business-to-business food and non-food supply chain in Europe is concerned, all interested parties are invited to submit their views in response to the questions by 30 April 2013. On the basis of the responses received, the Commission will announce the next steps by mid-2013 so it’s a case of watch this space in this area for the moment….