Key note by the EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva
As individual consumers we are vulnerable, says commissioner Kuneva . The union wants to empower the citizens as consumers by equipping them with knowledge about consumer rights and responsibilities.
Ms Kuneva is in charge of the union consumer policies for 500 million people. She took her post in June 2007. Her priorities are
- modernize consumer protection in the union
- achieve good reinforcement of those rules
- empower the citizens by equipping them with knowledge. All should know what the rules are and where to turn.
It’s about equality for all
Consumer education is about equality for all. She referred to Hayden Green, educator and textbook author who means that consumer education is part of the foundation on which students may begin to build their personal lives, and on which we must begin to build a more responsive and humane world.
Consumer education is multidisciplinary by design and involves a responsibility in a social perspective. It addresses many areas
- decision making
- economic – allocation of scarce resources
- rights and responsibilities
Curricula addressing these issues are being prepared in many EU states – especially in adult education. This is very important in the new member states. Here the commission can act as a catalyst. It can provide tools etc. but the courses have to be built on national conditions. They will also have to target many groups: School children, adult learners (vulnerable adults in particular) and higher education students. One of specific actions for consumer education is the Development of Online Education Tools for Adults (DOLCETA) - interactive multilingual online learning tools - developed in cooperation with EAEA. DOLCETA is targeted at trainers and other influential persons in consumer education, as well as at the consumer. The tools it contains go beyond the simple provision of general information, to include learning exercises and other interactive material. They can also be used in a functional literacy approach to teach people how to read well enough to function in a complex society. Thus the DOLCETA materials relate directly to the teaching of useful life skills.The modules are available for all 27 EU countries in all official EU languages.
Linked to this is environmental education. Global warming is an issue which targets all.
Meglena Kuneva asked what we can do together. First of all we need to work with all stakeholders. The commission itself is one of them. “I want to see more of businesses taking part in self regulation”, she said. This might be an interesting arena for activities for EAEA and its members, taking initiatives for study circles etc. Not all what we want to achieve can be reached through legislation.
Consumer policies, integration and cohesion
Of course consumer education is about equality in general. The poor are poor in all senses. Integration policies are connected to this and if we work well with them they also cover social responsive consumer awareness.
It’s also important to note that the coverage of internet is rapidly growing. Well used it is a strong democratic tool. “I hope for a quicker process in Bulgaria and Romania than what the older member states have experienced”, said Ms Kuneva.
“We need to build strong civil voices”, she continued. Cohesion policy is important and if we succeed with all goals there the consumer policies will automatically benefit. Trust in democracy is vital for this. Denmark’s consumer policy started to be discussed after the Second World War. It is now one of the strongest consumer legislations in the world. That discussion has just started in the new member states. Ideas from other parts of the union can help in this process.
Ms Meglena Kuneva, EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection