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The European - 14 aprile 1995

THE EUROPEAN, 14-20 aprile 1995

Joseph Dalby

- is a Brussels-based barristers


SOMMARIO. Descrive le caratteristiche del fascicolo recentemente pubblicato dalla Commissione europea per la difesa del consumatore, per dare utili informazioni al consumatore europeo o a chi viaggi in Europa. Pur essendo ancora inadeguato a coprire tutte le esigenze, il manuale è un'utile guida introduttiva alle complesse questioni in ballo.

Shopping abroad and want to know your rights? Or perhaps you need to know how to make sure the toys you buy your children are safe?

All this and more features in the European Commission's first book targeted at consumers, but which could prove equally useful to businesses as either consumers in their own right or for simply knowing how to comply with Union law.

Published last month, the European Consumer Guide To The Single Market, offers the reader an introduction to consumer legislation in the Union.

Its primary purpose is to help consumers to understand the complexities of the underlying law by setting out the plain facts of the European dimension of consumer protection. It does this in the form of a dialogue that you are more likely to find in a coffee house than a courthouse - in other words, it is userfriendly, with the legal jargon translated into plain language.

In more than 200 pages it explains the law in a wide number of areas, including value-added tax, product safety, distance selling, unfair contracts terms, tourism, financial services and others. In addition, it has hints and tips for the consumer, gives an indication of what the future might bring, and mentions what business organisations are doing voluntarily for the benefit of the consumer.

On the other hand, while it is comprehensively informative, it should not be regarded as a definitive in the pratical sense. It might tell you what your rights are, but it does not go very far in explaining how you can go about enforcing them.

This is especially so when it comes to specific sectors; for instance, one would think from reading the text that a single market in insurance has been created almost overnight, whereas in practice there are still barriers which prevent people taking out insurance policies anywhere in the Union.

In this respect the European Consumer Organisation, Beuc, regards the guide as a good first step, but believes it needs to be supplemented by detailed guides in order to complete the picture and to be of real use.

Nevertheless, the guide puts the panoply of laws into context and does so simply. It will probably be of most help if and when consumers come across difficulties, and so it would be useful to have a copy in the home or at the office for when the needs arises.

The European Consumer Guide To The Single Market is free. Copies can be obtained from Commission representation offices in each of the EU member states, and also from the Consumer Coss-Border Information Offices, which can be found at most internal border points.

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