Vicky Ford | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual
The internal market and consumer protection committee’s work is relevant to the daily lives of many millions of European citizens. It oversees and scrutinises EU rules on the movement of goods and services, customs policy, mutual recognition of professional qualification, public procurement and standardisation.
The committee has specific roles regarding the digital single market and works to reduce barriers to economic trade and simplify legislation to enhance competitiveness, while taking care of consumer interests in a wide range of sectors.
As Chair, I worked with Catherine Stihler and Antonio López-Istúriz White to revise safety rules on personal protective equipment such as life jackets and crash helmets, gas appliances including boilers and cookers, and cableway installations like mountain lifts. I also led the amendments to firearms laws to take into account security developments, while protecting the rights of legal owners.
Olga Sehnalová’s report means all new cars will be equipped with eCall technology which will alert emergency services in event of vehicle accidents and Dan Dalton’s work will strengthen vehicle safety and emissions standards in the aftermath of the emissions scandal.
Birgit Collin-Langen led a modernisation of package holiday rules to extend consumer protection to those buying package holidays online.
Dita Charanzová’s report means public sector websites will become more accessible to those with disabilities. This is now being followed by work on the accessibility act encompassing further products and services.
To assist the fight against cybercrime, Andreas Schwab headed the negotiations on the security of network and information systems (NIS directive) which enables national experts to better coordinate protection of critical infrastructure.
Evelyne Gebhardt and Kaja Kallas worked together with colleagues from the industry committee on a major report on the digital single market. IMCO has organised significant workshops on digital issues, chaired by Róża Thun.
A number of colleagues have led work streams to ensure consumer laws are updated and fit for purpose for the digital age, making it easier for buyers and sellers to transact digitally across Europe.
For example, to counter the increase in rogue traders online, there will be new processes to help national authorities coordinate efforts, since fraudsters don’t stop at the borders.
The committee has introduced regular scrutiny sessions on implementation, and much work has been done on new developments in customs laws and procedures.
Site visits to the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Mumbai Port in India gave insight into the logistical improvements achieved.
Members led reports on non-tariff barriers and better regulation in the internal market, focusing on delivering a competitive regulatory environment to make trading easier for small businesses and to help keep jobs and companies in Europe. The committee reported on relationships between the European economic area, Switzerland and the single market.
In terms of the remainder of the current legislature, the services package is a high priority. The single market is already the most integrated services market in the world.
However, there are further economic benefits to be gained by removing internal trade barriers to services and enabling individuals and companies to use their skills and qualifications across borders. The new European services eCard will make it easier for service providers to complete administrative bureaucracies in multiple member states.
We will be considering the proposals for a new notification procedure and a proportionality assessment to be undertaken before any further regulations on professional services are introduced at national level.
There are many different information sources to assist consumers and businesses trading across the single market such as SOLVIT, single market information tool (SMIT) and the single digital gateway. The forthcoming compliance and assistance package will look at these tools and consider improvements.
IMCO will also continue to be involved in many different developments under the digital single market strategy for example regarding eCommerce, ePrivacy and copyright.
Members are working to complete important crosscutting reports on digital policy for online platforms and the collaborative economy.
We are also finalising reports on longer lifetime of products, standardisation and franchising.
The committee aims to legislate carefully and responsibly, examining impacts to ensure legislation delivers its intended benefit, and that the rules are applied consistently on the ground.
As the committee responsible for the movement of goods, services and customs issues, IMCO is one of the committees most involved with decisions relating to Brexit.
The committee prepared an initial analysis of implications of the UK withdrawal and has already hosted a detailed hearing involving leading experts who discussed in particular regulatory cooperation, mutual recognition, customs issues, standard setting as well as possible future arrangements between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
The committee’s legislative work on areas like travel package rules and buying goods online has visible implications for consumers and businesses.
The MEPs on the IMCO committee are highly engaged with their constituents and receive the views and positions from a variety of different stakeholders across the EU.
It is our continued responsibility to be as accessible, transparent and as effective as possible. All IMCO meetings are web streamed live, accessible directly from the European Parliament website. Meeting documents, including voting lists and outcomes of trilogue negotiations, are available on the committee’s web page.
IMCO also communicates with interested stakeholders and citizens through a monthly newsletter and organises hearings and workshops. We encourage citizens, voters and stakeholders to engage actively in this material to gain an insight and understanding of the work we do.
Ours is one of the busiest committees in the European Parliament. We follow the Commission’s Refit exercise closely including the ongoing Refit of the consumer protection acquis and the committee invites the Commission to update on its results regularly. It is important that legislation fits together well and that it is continually reviewed, improved and finessed.
Legislative oversight is a priority for IMCO MEPs. We have a responsibility to ensure that all secondary legislation is given due diligence as it impacts on the consumer and businesses in the same manner.
Europe’s consumers and businesses, large and small, expect legislation to meet the demands of an increasingly globalised, digitalised and fast moving economy. We need to make sure that the implementation of agreed legislation is fit for purpose, and future proof, in an ever-evolving market.