On Thursday 16 March, EU consumer authorities and the European Commission met with Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to hear and discuss their proposed solutions to two areas of concern: a growing number of consumers have complained about having been targeted by fraud or scams when using social media websites, as well as having been subject to certain terms of services that do not respect EU consumer law. On this occasion, Commissioner Jourová said: “Social media has become part of our daily lives and a majority of Europeans use it regularly. Given the growing importance of online social networks it is time to make sure that our strong EU rules, that are there to protect consumers from unfair practices, are complied with in this sector. It is not acceptable that EU consumers can only call on a court in California to resolve a dispute. Nor can we accept that users are deprived of their right to withdraw from an on-line purchase. Social media companies also need to take more responsibility in addressing scams and fraud happening on their platforms. I want to thank the EU consumer authorities who have worked tirelessly with the Commission on this important issue over the past months. From today, social media companies have one month to come up with solutions to comply with EU rules.” In November 2016, EU consumer authorities, under the leadership of the French consumer authority and with the support of the European Commission, sent a letter to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ last November asking them to address these problematic practices. The companies will finalise detailed measures on how to comply with the EU regulatory framework within one month. The Commission and the consumer authorities will review the final proposals. If they are not satisfactory, consumer authorities could ultimately resort to enforcement action.
Today, the European Commission publishes its third EU Citizenship Report taking stock of progress since 2014 and further presenting actions to ensure citizens can fully enjoy their rights when working, travelling, studying or participating in elections. Europeans are more than ever aware of their status as citizens of the Union and the proportion of Europeans wanting to know more about their rights continues to increase. Over four out of five Europeans cherish, in particular, the right to free movement that allows them to live, work, study and do business anywhere in the EU (December 2016 Eurobarometer). However, a lack of awareness means EU citizens do not fully exercise their right to vote in European and local elections and many are unaware of the right to consular protection, for instance. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, responsible for EU citizenship rights, said: “87% of Europeans are aware of their EU citizenship, which is more than ever before, but they are not always aware of the rights that come with EU citizenship. (…) We want to empower citizens to know more about their EU rights and use them more easily.” Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship: “The European Union exists for the European citizens and through them. To ensure that EU citizens can fully enjoy their rights and freedoms in times of increasing globalisation and transnational challenges, we are committed to continuing our work on strengthening security within the EU and by stepping up the protection of our common external borders.” The 2017 EU Citizenship Report sets out the Commission’s priorities in further raising awareness of these rights and making them easier to use in practice. It will for instance organise an EU-wide information campaign on EU citizenship rights, strengthen voluntary engagement through the European Solidarity Corps or intensify Citizens ‘dialogues. Full press release, report and factsheet on the main measures taken in the field of EU citizenship since 2014.
An agreement was reached yesterday in trilogue, bringing together representatives of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, on the Commission’s proposal to revise the Shareholder Rights Directive which improves shareholders’ engagement in companies. The new rules will encourage more long-term engagement of shareholders and improve corporate governance of EU companies listed on a stock exchange. Commissioner Jourová welcomed the agreement saying: “Sound corporate governance of companies and more transparency on remuneration is crucial in making the European economy more stable and European companies more sustainable.” Shareholders will be able to hold management accountable for their decisions and ensure that they take into account the business’ long-term interests. Key elements of the proposal include stronger transparency requirements for institutional investors and asset managers on their investment policies. For the first time, a European “say on pay” would be introduced to ensure a stronger link between management pay and performance. The proposal is in line with one of the new priorities under the Capital Markets Union, namely encouraging more sustainable investment. The agreement paves the way for formal adoption by the European Parliament and the Council. Following formal adoption, Member States will have 24 months for transposition.
On the occasion of the final vote by the European Parliament on the conclusion of theEU-U.S. Data Protection “Umbrella Agreement”, Justice Commissioner, Věra Jourová said: “I welcome the strong positive vote of the European Parliament (…). This historic agreement introduces high data protection standards for transatlantic law enforcement cooperation. More than ever, the EU and the U.S. need to cooperate to fight crime and terrorism and protect citizens from common security challenges. At the same time this cooperation needs to safeguard the European fundamental right to privacy. The Umbrella Agreement will ensure that the exchanges of personal data, such as criminal records, names or addresses, are governed by strong data protection rules. After years of negotiations, we concluded a unique agreement that guarantees a high level of protection to EU citizens’ personal data transferred to judicial and police authorities across the Atlantic. A major novelty is that the U.S. will grant all EU citizens the right to enforce their data protection rights in U.S. courts, a right that U.S. citizens already enjoy in Europe.” The Umbrella Agreement was signed by EU-U.S. Justice Ministers on 2 June 2016. It will enter into force once each party has completed the necessary internal procedures. On the European Union side, this is the adoption of a decision by the Council on the conclusion of the agreement, following the European Parliament’s consent vote.
Tomorrow, 10 November, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová, will travel to Ireland. During her two-day visit, she will meet with Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald and Minister of European Affairs, Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Dara Murphy. Furthermore, she will meet with members of the Committee on Justice and Equality of the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas), participate in a roundtable with member organisations of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, and discuss consumer issues with representatives from consumer organisations. Commissioner Jourová will also visit a residential centre for separated children and unaccompanied minors. Finally, the Commissioner will meet the Irish Data Protection Commissioner and pay a visit to Facebook Headquarters, where she will participate in a meeting with senior industry representatives to discuss data protection, ways to tackle illegal online hate, the promotion of diversity in the digital economy as well as digital contracts.
Commissioner Jourová will visit Berlin on Monday 25 and Tuesday 26, where she will meet Mr Wolfgang Schäuble, Federal Minister of Finance, to discuss the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. She will then speak at an event on online hate speech together with Justice Minister, Mr. Heiko Maas, with whom she will exchange on ongoing justice files, such as Digital Contracts, European Public Prosecutor’s Office and the upcoming insolvency proposal. At the meeting with Interior Minister, Mr. Thomas de Maizière, the Commissioner will touch upon data protection files and justice aspects of the Security Union. In the Bundestag (Parliament), she will exchange views with the Committee for Justice and Consumer Protection, and with the Legal and EU Affairs committee. Her visit includes meetings with business representatives at the German Chamber of Industry and at Commerce (DIHK) and at the Federation of German Industry (BDI). The Commissioner will discuss consumer topics, including the VW case, with the German consumer organisations (Verbraucherzentrale). Finally, Commissioner Jourová will open the conference on the “10 years of protection against discrimination in Germany”. A press briefing will take place at the Berlin European Commission representation from 12:15 to 13:00 on Tuesday.
Commissioner Jourová met yesterday with Dr. Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz, Member of the Board of Management of the VW group, following her discussion with 31 consumer organisations in Brussels two weeks ago. Volkswagen committed to an EU-wide action plan to bring the affected cars back into conformity. Volkswagen agreed to inform the customers by end 2016 and to have all cars repaired by autumn 2017. Commissioner Jourová said: “Volkswagen committed to an EU-wide action plan today, which is an important step towards a fair treatment of consumers in the EU. I will closely monitor this commitment and continue to work with consumer organisations, authorities and Volkswagen.” This is an important first step, which the Commission will be closely monitoring. Therefore it was agreed to have another meeting on the same level soon to take stock of the progress. Also the conference with consumer organisations next week in Brussels and the meeting with enforcement authorities in early October will be occasions to hold Volkswagen accountable to these commitments.
Yesterday, 31 consumer organisations from all over Europe came to Brussels on Commissioner Jourová‘s invitation to start working on solutions to better protect consumers in the context of the Volkswagen emissions case. This meeting is part of the Commission’s efforts to ensure that EU consumers across the 28 Member States get a fair treatment in this case. Commissioner Jourová said: “This was an important first step and this cooperation will continue. I will discuss this with the Volkswagen Group and with enforcement authorities. I want to ensure consumers get a fair treatment.” The meeting helped the European Commission to gather the information necessary to assess whether the relevant EU legislation is properly enforced and it gave consumer organisations the chance to exchange information and best practices to be more effective in dealing with this case. Commissioner Jourová has committed to discussing the results of yesterday’s meeting with Volkswagen and the relative enforcement authorities in the coming weeks. This initiative follows previous calls of Internal Market and Industry Commissioner Bieńkowska for voluntary compensation of European consumers without the need for class action.
Since 1 August, U.S. companies have been able to sign up to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield with the U.S. Department of Commerce, which has been verifying that their privacy policies comply with the high data protection standards required by the Privacy Shield. Already 103 have been certified. This means that these U.S. companies can receivepersonal data from the EU in full compliance with EU data protection rules. European companies caneasily check on the Privacy Shield list whether their American partner companies, to whom they are transferring personal data, are certified. The Department of Commerce is currently reviewing the privacy policies of 190 further companies that have signed up to the Shield while an additional 250 companies are in the process of submitting their application. Věra Jourová, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “The EU-U.S. Privacy Shield is a robust new framework protecting fundamental rightsof Europeans, and also facilitating business across the Atlantic. I’m pleased that many companies have already signed up and brought their privacy policies in line with the Privacy Shield. I encourage many others to continue to do so to ensure Europeans can have full confidence in the protection of their personal data when transferred to the U.S.” The Commission welcomes the choice made by a third of the certified companies to opt for the EU Data Protection Authorities as their dispute resolution body (which is compulsory for human resource data but optional for other personal data). This will provide individuals with an easy and accessible way to obtain redress, if they consider their data has been misused and their data protection rights have not been respected. All details on the different redress possibilities are available in the citizens’ guide published by the Commission.
“On the night of 2 to 3 August 1944, around 3,000 Roma men, women and children from the ‘Gypsy family camp’ of Auschwitz-Birkenau were murdered in the gas chambers. They were among hundreds of thousands of victims of the Roma genocide, killed by the Nazis and their allies. The Roma were one of many groups who fell victim to the holocaust. It is in memory of all these innocent victims and the horrific injustice they suffered and died from that the European Commission commemorates the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on 2 August. Against a backdrop of increasingly divisive rhetoric, hate speech and hate crime, it is important to recall these dark moments in our history and learn the lessons of the past. Many people have little or no knowledge that the Roma were targeted by the Nazi regime. The holocaust of the Roma is an under-taught and under-recognised topic. We must not forget that still today there are too many Roma facing discrimination, and who are victims of hate speech and hate crime in Europe. The European Commission recalls its support for the European Parliament’s resolution of 15 April 2015 officially recognising Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. We hope that all Member States will recognise it. The European Commission remains committed to improving Roma integration. It will continue to work with all stakeholders to improve the daily lives of Roma.” The statement is available online