report 2022

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

2022: BEUC – 60 years young, 60 years strong

Monique Goyens
Director General
Arnold Koopmans

On 6 March 2022, the Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs turned 60. We used the opportunity to take stock of what has happened in recent decades. This has proved to be an acrobatic exercise: how to squeeze many years of amazing developments into a brochure? We managed to do so and you can read how for instance we helped to remove lead from petrol in the 1980s. Our top takeaway from 60 years of advocacy? Achieving progress in consumer protection is a marathon, not a sprint.

Most of our time in 2022 was of course spent on protecting consumers in the present. For example, we managed to considerably improve two new pieces of EU legislation – the Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act – which will boost online consumer choice and protection. We also successfully achieved better rules to protect consumers when they take out small loans or use ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ schemes.

BEUC also successfully intervened before the EU Court, which sided with consumers when it ruled that Google broke EU antitrust laws by imposing illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile networks. Thanks to this ruling consumers will benefit from a more open and innovative digital environment.

We are not short on challenges. The ‘perfect storm’ of spiralling living costs dominated newspaper headlines in 2022. Rising energy prices, partly linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, led to rampant inflation. This created many worries for Europeans about the future. To weather this storm, we developed solutions for policymakers. We particularly underlined that this crisis should propel us towards – not away from – sustainable lifestyles.

Results from pan-European projects run by our members helped to gather evidence from the ground. Our project to combat energy poverty led to recommendations for both consumers (choose LED lightbulbs) and policymakers (simplify energy bills) alike. We also coordinated the launch of collective purchase campaigns for tumble dryers and solar panels aiming to help households across Europe to improve their energy efficiency. Are you renting? Buying a piece of a solar park might be an advantageous option.

Beyond these projects, a major barrier for consumers to adopt more sustainable lifestyles must be tackled: high upfront costs. To fill the investment gap, we argued that financial instruments – such as green loans – must be made available and tailored to consumer needs.

The cost-of-living crisis is not the only area where consumers faced headwinds. For example, we called out the EU’s institutional greenwashing of sustainable finance after it included fossil gas and nuclear energy in its so-called ‘taxonomy’ on what investment is or isn’t green. We also criticised policymakers’ lack of action on tackling the sale of dangerous products via online marketplaces.

Dangerous products are just one of many challenges in the digital age. We are also witnessing the sudden omnipresence of commercial surveillance and targeted advertising. This puts consumers in a position of less power: ‘digital asymmetry’. We hosted a conference with high-level EU and US policymakers, offering ways to address this asymmetry in consumer and digital regulation, as well as its enforcement.

By the time of writing this introductory note, BEUC has turned 61. The marathon of improving the everyday lives of European consumers continues into its next leg.

Making EU decisions work for consumers

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

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.

Running projects to advance the consumer interest

2022 at BEUC in numbers

Fundraising & Finance

For 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.