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Lawmakers from European Affairs and European Funds Oversight and from Economic Policy and Tourism Committees meet with European Commissioner on Consumer Protection Mr. Neven Mimica

Lawmakers from the European Affairs and European Funds Oversight and from the Economic Policy and Tourism committees have held talks with the European Commissioner on Consumer Protection, Neven Mimica, on June 9th 2014. Daniela Bobeva, vice-premier on economic development, trade union and NGO representatives took part in the meeting.

The chair of the European Affairs and European Funds Oversight committee, Denitsa Karadzhova, has noted at the opening of the meeting that her committee looks at the EU policy on consumer protection through the prism of its four main goals – defense from serious risks which can’t be handled by individual consumers; informed choice; defense of consumer rights and efficient dispute settlement with merchants; consumer rights support in line with the ever occurring economic and social changes. She underscored the said goals are to be achieved in the next programming period at the price of less than 7 eurocents a year for each consumer. She noted this is a serious challenge requiring daily efforts at national, as well as European level. She recalled that “the consumer protection” field was structured separately in the EU on January 1st 2007 – the date of Bulgaria’s EU accession and the first EU commissioner from Bulgaria had received the difficult task to warrant to every EU citizen choice, flexibility and quality at affordable price.

The EU commissioner for consumer protection Neven Mimica has noticed that this policy is one of the most important, in the interest of every citizen and has added that we should rise the question what the EU can make for us as citizens. Our policy, the commissioner said, should answer the needs of the citizens; we should tell them how to benefit from their rights.  He explained the main task he has set himself was to consolidate the existing legislation not so much by introducing new directives but by working together with other commissioners. The EU does not provide for a receipt and the sector approach is very important because it may help the harmonization of the policies of the different sectors, Mimica said.

The vice-premier on economic development Daniela Bobeva noticed that one of the advantages of Bulgaria’s EU membership is particularly in the area of consumers’ protection. She recalled that one of the first legislations launched in the pre-access period was in the field of consumer protection; the creation of the first state bodies for the protection of consumers. The Bulgarian legislation in this field develops only in the directions set by the European directives, stressed Daniela Bobeva. We have reached considerable successes in the sphere of consumer protection after the access of Bulgaria to the EU. She mentioned also in the last years she was observing a process of changing directives with less mandatory rules with such with grater ones, something leading to mandatory regulations for the entire EU. In her view this situation leaves the individual states less initiative and responsibility. According to her, the EU needs to give back to the member states the freedom to choose the instruments and ways for more effective policies in the field of consumer protection.

Daniela Bobeva emphasized that the protection of consumers is not only a problem of and for the state, or only such of and for the consumers; in this area, more than in any other, it is clear that consumers could have better protection by joining their own efforts with the ones of the consumers’ organizations and the state. In her view such partnerships have not yet been established in Bulgaria; there is a very week sector of consumer protection organizations, due to the very restrictive rules set by the state legitimizing them. That is why we propose amendments to the Consumer Protection Act, allowing for more non-government organizations to take part in the protection of consumers. This requires more funds, including the allocation of public funds to the NGO’s dealing with consumer protection.

The chairman of the Economic Policy and Tourism committee Aliosman Imamov noted that in the last years Bulgaria has been very active and consistent in the harmonization of the European legislation in this field – it has transposed the total of 17 EU directives in 11 laws.

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