12 luglio 1995
IP - Bruxelles
SOMMARIO. La Commissione europea per la difesa del consumatore ha adottato una direttiva per la semplificazione delle norme relative alla indicazione dei prezzi sui prodotti. La nuova direttiva stabilisce che tutti i negozianti debbano indicare, per tali prodotti, il prezzo unitario. Il consumatore verrebbe coś informato chiaramente sul reale prezzo dell'acquisto, e sarebbe posto in grado di fare confronti utili. Si spiega il nuovo sistema, e si ricorda quali siano le basi giuridiche e regolamentari (Background) del sistema in vigore e quali difetti esso presenti.
The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Directive aimed at introducing clearer and simpler rules on indicating unit prices of all products on sale in retail outlets. The Directive provides that all traders, with the exception of small retailers who have been granted a derogation of four years, should clearly indicate the selling price and also the unit price of each product. The consumer will thus be better informed about the unit price of the product he is buying and be able to compare different products in order to make the best choice. "Our twofold aim is transparency and simplification", said Commission member Emma Bonino, "transparency because the consumer should have precise points of reference for comparing products, and simplification because the system provided for under previous directives proved to be too complicated to be implemented properly. The system provided for in our proposal for a Directive breaks the link between packaging ranges and indicating the unit prices of produ
cts. I believe that unit price is the simplest and most effective means of informing the consumer".
With this Directive, the Commission has sent a clear and tangible signal to the European consumer, which finds expression in the aim of attaining a high level of protection for consumers in Europe, as enshrined in the Treaty of Maastricht.
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The system in place.
The displaying of selling prices of products offered for sale to consumers is regulated in Council Directive 79/581/EEC of 19 June 1979, as amended by Council Directive 88/315/EEC of 7 June 1988 with respect to foodstuffs and by Council Directive 88/314/EEC of 7 June 1988 with respect to non-food products. The system provided for under these Directives stipulated a transitional period of seven years, and their implementation had to be put back a further two years because of the complexities involved in introducing the system.
The Directives are complex because they provide for a general obligation to indicate unit prices for prepacked products in pre-established quantities, while at the same time also providing for exceptions - sometimes compulsory and sometimes optional - for predetermined ranges of products.
The reasons for the review. The Treaty on European Union introduced a new Article, 129a, which provides for the attainment of a high level of protection for consumers, particularly as regards their being properly informed. The Directive is the first to be adopted on this new legal basis. At its meeting on 5 April 1993, the Consumer Affairs Council called on the Commission to look at ways of simplifying the system.
The new Directive.
The Directive provides for the indication of both the selling price and unit price of products offered for sale by traders to the final consumer. The scope of the directive is the same of the previous ones.
The selling price and unit price must be unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible. They should relate to the final price of the product concerned under the conditions stipulated by the Member States, and make reference to the declared quantity in accordance with statutory provisions at national and Community level.
The Commission leaves to the Member States the possibility of fixing the conditions for the indication of prices, especially with regard to prices applying to products generally and customarily used in specific quantities. Based on the principle of subsidiarity, the Member States may grant exemptions from the obligation to display the unit price in the case of products for which this would not be appropriate because of their nature or intended use, and products with respect to which an indication of the unit price would not provide adequate information to the consumer or would be likely to lead to confusion. As regards non- food products, the Member States may draw up a list of products indicating categories for which the obligation to indicate the unit price applies.
The Member States will have to transpose the Directive into their domestic legal orders by 6 June 1997. For its part, the Commission will have to present an initial report on the implementation of the Directive to the Parliament and the Council within two years following this date, and a general report within four years. In the initial report, consideration will also be given to the effects of the Directive on small retailers so as to accommodate their needs.