“The market today is undergoing significant changes as a result of globalization, digitalisation and the rapid development of technology. On one hand, we as consumers today have a lot of options when purchasing various goods and services. On the other hand, we need to be very smart to make the right pick in the wide selection, and to know how to protect our rights, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Economics Ēriks Eglītis emphasized during the conference “Dialogue on Contemporary and Effective Consumer Rights".
According to the Consumer Scoreboard, a significant increase in e-commerce has been seen throughout the European Union over the last 10 years, and Latvia ranks among the fastest growing countries. However, at the same time Latvia is among those countries where consumers have the lowest trust in internet shopping - less than 35%.
"We need to work towards a better balance between the responsibilities of the consumer and the seller in order to harmonize the parties' interests. Over the past few years, we have implemented a number of initiatives to improve consumer rights and promote co-operation between public administration and entrepreneurs for the interests of the general public,” says Eglītis.
For over a year, we have been working on the "Advice First" initiative to promote mutual dialogue between entrepreneurs, supervisors and consumers. Hence, the current market monitoring strategy, the organization of day-to-day work and motivation have been changed fundamentally by giving the dialogue a priority. Therefore, we expect that this initiative will improve compliance with the law in practice. At present, work is ongoing on development of a rating to see whether the "Advice First" initiative has given the expected improvements in meeting public interests.
The European Union has done a lot in recent years to ensure a higher level of consumer protection. We are currently facing new changes in consumer legislation: the European Commission has proposed the “New Deal for Consumers” which includes the mandate of consumer rights organizations to increase the representative actions on behalf of a consumer group. The proposal also intends to extend consumer protection to online services in the light of the development and diversity in the digital sector, the harmonization of penalties for cross-border consumer rights, the limitation of the right of withdrawal, and the prohibition of discrimination against consumers by misleadingly offering lower quality goods.
The conference "Dialogue on Contemporary and Effective Consumer Rights” on the European Commission’s proposal “New Deal for Consumers” was organized by the European Commission in cooperation with the Ministry of Economics and the Consumer Rights Protection Centre on August 30 of this year. The event was attended by Tiina Astola, Director General of the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers of the European Commission, Inna Šteinbuka, Head of the European Commission Representation in Latvia, Ēriks Eglītis, State Secretary of the Ministry of Economics, Baiba Vītoliņa, Director of Consumer Rights Protection Centre, as well as representatives of the major business organizations and consumer rights protection experts.