report 2023

BEUC's efforts to improve people's daily lives are made possible by the expertise and actions of its members, national consumer organisations

2023: Hard work to deliver a fair transition to consumers, beyond the hype

Monique Goyens
Director General
Arnold Koopmans

We expected 2023 to be a busy year. The current EU legislature was coming to an end and many proposals needed to be put forward by the European Commission to stand a chance of being adopted before the 2024 European Parliament elections.

We were not proven wrong, to say the least.

As you will see in the following sections, many initiatives related to both the digital and green transitions were adopted or made good progress in 2023. BEUC contributed significantly to shaping the debate, pushing legislators to embrace a much more vibrant “out-of-silos” approach. We pushed them to connect the dots between the energy markets and financial worlds to allow for green investments. And we encouraged cooperation between customs, consumer protection and market surveillance authorities to make sure consumers were not just a few clicks away from buying unsafe products from third countries...

In that context, 2023 could be symbolised by two recurrent challenges consumers face in today’s markets: greenwashing and the downsides of the online economy. We at BEUC have not only been active in these areas to improve the regulatory framework. Thanks to the evidence and analysis of our member organisations, we have also used the current framework to enforce consumer rights against unacceptable greenwashing practices by airlines and by plastic bottle producers. Our members have also contributed to raising awareness on the many downsides of the e-economy, by shedding light in their tests on the numerous illegal and dangerous products and substances that could be found online.

But 2023 was about much more than that.

It was also the year to tackle the energy crisis. European lawmakers and authorities have learnt numerous lessons on how to prevent this from happening again. Among the provisions the EU adopted, many of the ones championed by BEUC were related to keeping energy bills under control. This means allowing customers to be rewarded for their flexibility, to benefit from variable tariffs in a competitive market where energy can be sourced not only from the usual energy suppliers but also by energy communities or between peers.

It was also a year of not forgetting the basics. However increasingly complex markets become, some basic consumer rights have been revised to make them fit for the digital economy, with a bigger focus on more vulnerable consumers. Think about staying safe when buying or using consumer products, or not being ripped off when taking out a loan.

As in previous years, the European consumer movement had plenty on its plate. More than ever, consumer organisations needed to support not only consumers but also policymakers, in understanding increasingly complex and intertwined markets. In 2023, BEUC has significantly developed its role of coordinating its members’ enforcement activities on important matters such as greenwashing, marketing of crypto-assets and social media subscription models. We expect such enforcement coordination to grow exponentially in the years to come.

At the time of writing this introductory note, the European Parliament elections are within sight. As our campaign motto goes, consumers count on the EU to help them to live in a fair market – online and offline. And BEUC will guide policymakers on how to do so. 2024 will be a different kind of busy but no less exciting.

Making EU decisions work for consumers

Our work led to new laws, rules and decisions that will improve people’s lives:

Promoting consumer safety

Fair digital transformation

Addressing the needs of specific consumer groups

Advancing the green transition

Setting the agenda to improve the lives of consumers

We brought consumer concerns, issues, expectations and opportunities into the public eye:

Speaking up for consumers in debates on (future) policy

The voice of consumers must be heard throughout the EU decision-making process. We made the following comments about ongoing policy developments:

Beyond advocacy: enforcement

The BEUC network acted to make sure companies abide by EU rules.

External alerts to the network of consumer protection authorities (CPC)

Follow up on previous CPC actions

Following a complaint to the EU’s Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) network of national consumer protection authorities we made in 2021 with our members against Nintendo for premature obsolescence, in June 2023 the company has committed to lifelong free repairs of Nintendo Switch game consoles suffering from ‘Joy Con Drift’. This complaint was filed by consumer organisations who were inundated with almost 25,000 complaints about the so-called ‘Joy Con Drift’ issue.

Events with CPC authorities

We organised two joint events with CPC authorities, respectively on misleading green claims and on new priorities for 2024. We held several meetings with national competition authorities and our members.

Involvement in competition cases

We intervened before the EU Court of Justice in the Google Shopping and Google Android antitrust cases. We also intervened in the Commission’s Apple Music Streaming antitrust investigation and commented on the Microsoft/Activision case.

Running projects to advance the consumer interest

2023 at BEUC in numbers

Fundraising & Finance

For over 60 years, BEUC has worked relentlessly to represent the interests of European consumers. By working closely with our members, we bring together consumers’ viewpoints from across Europe, and apply these to our work in the EU policy-making arena. As a not-for-profit organisation, our policy successes would not be possible without the funding support we receive from both our members and our supporters. We are immensely grateful for this support, which allows us to achieve greater impact and to represent the consumer voice on a broad range of priority issues.

Co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or EISMEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.