EU’s single market turns 30 – how have consumers benefited?

The European single market will turn 30 in 2023. For three decades, the single market has made daily life easier for consumers and businesses, promoted employment and growth, and strengthened consumer rights and protection. The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) is involved in ensuring that consumers can benefit from the opportunities offered by the single market.

“European unity was a dream of a few people. It became a hope for many.  Today it is a necessity for all of us,” stated Konrad Adenauer one of the EU’s founding members in 1954. The European Union has become an integral part of European life. The single market is one of the EU’s most tangible successes. It makes life easier for citizens and creates new business opportunities.

The single market enables freedom movement for goods, services, people and capital within the EU. It applies to the 27 EU Member States and also extends to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland also has partial access to the single market.

A driver of growth

  • The single market has seen the EU’s annual exports grow fivefold from EUR 671 billion to over EUR 3 400 billion between 1993 and 2022.
  • 440 million European citizens benefit from the single market. They have a greater choice in products and services at a competitive price and can live and work in any EU country.
  • 24 million companies operate in the single market.
  • 17 million Europeans live or work in an EU country other than the country they are from.
  • 15% of goods sold worldwide come from the EU.

The single market improves consumer protection

European consumers can rely on many consumer rights thanks to the single market. The obligation to repair has given the consumer a two-year liability for defects, according to which the seller is obliged to repair or replace defective products without added costs. Consumers can also rely on RAPEX, a rapid alert system for unsafe consumer products, which is used between Member States and the Commission when a product poses a serious threat. In addition, Europeans travelling to different countries avoid large telephone bills when data roaming no longer results in additional costs.

European Consumer Centres network supports consumers and decision-makers

In order for exports within the EU to continue to grow, it is important that consumer safety and trust in the internal market improve simultaneously. ECC-Net, the European Consumer Centres Network aims to bring consumers at the heart of EU consumer policy. ECC-Net provides consumers with information on their rights free of charge and helps resolve cross-border disputes between the consumer and the seller. ECC-Net also helps in identifying the challenges faced by EU citizens when shopping in the internal market and adds awareness among EU policy makers on emerging problems. In this way, ECC-Net supports a well-functioning European internal market and helps consumers make cross-border purchases with peace of mind.

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