The European Union’s Competence in Consumer Law

While the European Community initially paid little attention to consumer protection, its position has changed considerably in recent decades. The evolution of consumer law can be broadly divided into three periods.[1] The first period lasted until the introduction of the Single European Act, and was mainly based upon the idea of the national welfare state and European market integration. Thus, consumer protection at the European level remained very limited until the 1970s. In the second phase, which extended up to the early 1990s, consumer rights were linked to the internal market and the European Community acquired a formal competence to legislate on consumer issues. The third phase, still underway, includes of two tendencies: full harmonization of consumer law by the EU on the one hand, and further recognition of consumer protection following the Charter of Fundamental Rights, on the other.

The next section will explore the increasing competences of the EU in consumer law.

  • [1] See e.g. Everson & Joerges (n 2), p. 10.
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