What does leaving the EU mean for consumers?

6 July 2016

This briefing is largely based on the briefing by the House of Commons Library ‘EU referendum: impact of an EU exit in key UK policy areas’. The opinions and judgements it contains are theirs. We expect to review and add to these articles periodically as events develop.

Consumer rights and protections are guaranteed through the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and the EU Treaties.

Over the years, the importance of these policies has grown within the EU. They are now an integral part of the single market and aim to make it open, fair and transparent so that consumers can have real choice and receive fair treatment.

A lot of the UK’s existing consumer protection rules are based on EU laws. These cover things like unsafe products and misleading marketing practices.

The EU’s current strategy for consumer policy aims to promote consumer safety, increase knowledge of consumer rights, strengthen the enforcement of consumer rules, and reflect consumers’ interests in new laws on various industries.

The Consumer Programme also has a budget of €188.8 million to support consumer policy across the EU and the European Economic Area.

If the UK negotiated to join Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein in the EEA, it would need to accept new and existing EU consumer protection laws. If not and we left the single market altogether, existing consumer legislation could be unpicked and changed, although the House of Commons Library says that “in practice this might be difficult to achieve”.

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