The Better Regulation Package - will consumer protection be bettered or battered?

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

"Better Regulation will ensure that policy is prepared, implemented and reviewed in an open, transparent manner, informed by the best available evidence and backed up by involving stakeholders," says the EC.
"Better Regulation will ensure that policy is prepared, implemented and reviewed in an open, transparent manner, informed by the best available evidence and backed up by involving stakeholders," says the EC.

Related tags: European union

The European Commission is calling its Better Regulation initiative 'radical and different' - but consumer groups say power is being handed over to big businesses and that consumers will suffer from weakened food policy.

This week the Commission revealed details of its Better Regulation Package ​ ​which aims to cut costs and red tape by reviewing policy and laws in concertation with industry stakeholders. The new package will see the Impact Assessment Board transformed into Independent Regulatory Scrutiny Boards, which will recruit members from outside the executive.    

But a spokesperson for consumer group  BEUC told FoodNavigator that such industry involvement could compromise policy-making.

"The Commission is under heavy pressure from a large number of business groups to undermine essential regulations. Making laws better is a laudable approach but there is a risk it might lead to an unbalanced cutting of red tape."

Meanwhile other groups have said the package is an attempt at deregulation which divests Member States of power.

Friends of the Earth campaign coordinator Paul de Clerck said: “These reforms are more about battering regulation than bettering it…introducing more and more barriers to prevent new environmental, labour and health and safety standards that protect citizens. The new initiatives proposed also risk weakening existing standards on food, chemicals and biodiversity.

"The Commission is trying to grab power from democratically elected parliamentarians and give it to business-friendly experts.”

Radical and different

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans stressed that the focus should be not on the methods of the initiative but rather what the Better Regulation package is trying to achieve.

“Is this radical or not? Methinks it is! (…) Is the outside world going to think that it’s radical? I think that depends to a large degree  on the results of the process - not the way we build this kitchen but the menu we are cooking for the people.”

FoodDrinkEurope has come out in favour of the new Regulatory Scrutiny Board which will involve food industry stakeholders. 

“[We] strongly support the Commission’s ambition to deliver better rules for better results. (…) It is crucial  to open up policy making and interact better with those who implement and benefit from (or sometimes endure) EU legislation [and] to take a fresh look across all policy areas to see where existing measures need to be improved."

Watchdog established

In response to worries that the Better Regulation package will mean public good is secondary to corporate interests, over 50 civil society organisations joined forces this week to create a watchdog. Mmebers include Finance Watch, UNI Europa, BEUC and Friends of the Earth.

Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC said: “The Better Regulation Watchdog (...) is a clear signal to the Commission not to jeopardise legislation protecting public interests."

She added that the Commission had been guilty of delaying and abandoning crucial regulation needed to protect consumers. A BEUC spokesperson told FoodNavigtaor that this included issues such as trans fatty acids, alcohol calorie labelling and origin labelling for processed meat.

Commission President Juncker launched Better Regulation in attempt to address high levels of euroscepticism and dissatisfaction over EU involvement in everyday life which came to light after the 2014 elections.

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