A key trend for consumer law and policy in Europe has been the progressive expansion of consumer rights. It has long been recognized that the vindication of consumer rights is challenging. The expansion of consumer rights from the 1960s was accompanied by the establishment of proactive regulatory agencies whose enforcement powers complement and to some degree displace mechanisms of individual consumer enforcement. In April 2018 the European Commission proposed extensive reforms of consumer law and policy in its New Deal for Consumers, a key component of which is a further significant shift away from judicial enforcement. This trend is balanced by new proposals to enhance opportunities for collective consumer redress. In this article I offer an assessment of where we are today with the varied mechanisms and trends for enforcement of consumer law and where we are heading, not simply with the New Deal for Consumers, but also with related policies such as the Digital Single Market Strategy. Overall the pattern suggests a number of key trends including: a shift from reactive to more proactive modes of enforcement; from individuated to more collective modes; more evidence of meta-regulatory approaches, and; greater cooperation in enforcement (both public private and transnational). These trends are not necessarily consistent as between each other, generating potential for tensions between approaches and underlying assumptions about both purposes and effectiveness in consumer law and policy.
Colin Scott, Consumer Law, Enforcement and the New Deal for Consumers (2019) 27 European Review of Private Law, issue 6, pp 1279–1296.