How we help strengthen the consumer movement across Europe
A strong consumer movement across all European countries is vital for consumers to be well-represented in decision making at both national and European level. Consumer organisations are watchdogs that see to it that consumer rights are well designed, as well as properly and effectively enforced.
Consumer organisations in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe – also known by the acronym CESEE – face difficulties in this. The consumer movement here consists of small organisations that lack resources or recognition as legitimate stakeholders by their governments. It is also worrying that many rely solely on public funding, which is dwindling.
As a pan-European consumer organisation, we work to increase the influence of our members in this region.
In 2010, we started planning how to strengthen the standing of consumer organisations and policy in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.
BEUC and its member organisations have taken the lead and carry out activities to turn our strategy into reality. An example is capacity building through targeted training and mentoring schemes.
But more is needed: commitment is required from the EU and/or national institutions. We particularly call on the EU Directorate General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST) to launch projects and programmes that address the situation in CESEE countries.
We bring people together
Successful cooperation builds bridges for the future. In 2016, for example, we organised a conference with our Czech member dTest on how to better enforce consumers’ rights through boosting cooperation between consumer organisations and national authorities. Among its key recommendations: start with small, pilot cooperation projects. Such recommendations contribute to the roll-out of consumer organisations’ watchdog function across Europe.
We carry out projects
‘Actions speak louder than words’, as the saying goes. BEUC has supported several projects to enhance our members’ financial sustainability as well as visibility and legitimacy in their country.
- Mentoring programme: ZPS (Slovenia) and dTest (Czech Republic) have been respectively mentored by Altroconsumo (Italy) and Consumentenbond (Netherlands) to implement their projects, with support from Which? (UK). ZPS ran the first ‘energy switching campaign’ in a CESEE country, while dTest revamped its website which helped them increase their membership.
- BEUC fund for members: our Latvian and Lithuanian members teamed up to create a ‘First Aid Kit for Consumers’. This is an online tool supporting consumers in the complaints procedure before entering an Alternative Dispute Resolution. Federacja Konsumentów (Poland) benefited from the fund to organise an ‘energy switching campaign’ in their country.
- Croatian pilot project: Croatia is the only EU country where BEUC does not yet have a representative. With many small organisations competing for scarce resources, it was essential for us to kick-off a structured dialogue between stakeholders at national and European level. To do so, BEUC appointed a coordinator, Dinko Mihaljević, in November 2015. With his help we aim to set up a coordination point between BEUC and consumer associations in Croatia and to facilitate the exchange of information between existing consumer groups.
We inform and train consumer professionals
Another initiative – fully funded by the European Commission and run by BEUC – is the Consumer Champion programme. It aims to strengthen the effectiveness of consumer organisations and other actors in consumer policy. Consumer Champion allows consumer professionals to exchange experiences, advice, resources and skills via the web. It also encompasses e-learning modules, class teaching and local training courses, the latter which are held across the CESEE countries.
- Our Czech member created a brand new website and is now financially sustainable
- First ‘energy switching campaign’ in the CESEE countries, ran by our Slovenian member (resulting in a 16% increase in its membership)
- ‘Energy switching campaign’ run in Poland by Federacja Konsumentów which increased their visibility and credibility in the country
- Launch of the ‘First Kit Aid for Consumers’ tool in the Baltic countries
- Croatian pilot project: inspired by the conference in Prague, a first meeting with the national authority and the majority of the consumer organisations took place in April 2016.
How can you help us?
We require funding to continue the various initiatives we have launched. This is partly covered by ourselves, our member organisations and commitments of EU & national institutions. Support from additional funders is much-needed to complement this. Visit our fundraising page to see what you can do.
The documents below provide in-depth information on our work in CESEE countries.
- Strategy to strengthen the consumer movement in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe (CESEE)
- Warsaw Declaration
- Action Plan for strengthening the Consumer Movement in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe
- Conference Report – Consumer policy after EU accession
- Analysis of the Consumer Movement in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe (CESEE)
- Conclusions of BEUC & dTest conference: Promoting cooperation by enforcers and consumer organisations for more effective enforcement of consumer rights
For more information on our work in CESEE countries, please contact Saida Saguir – Senior Capacity Building Officer.