Introduction: the development of a consumer policy
In 1975 the European Council accepted the first Consumer Policy Programme. As was mentioned in the introduction to a previous book in this series, European consumer law was justified as being a measure to improve the quality of the life of the peoples of the Member States of (then) the European Economic Community. According to the 1975 Consumer Policy Programme the consumer was entitled, among other things, to protection of his economic interests and to redress. With regard to the protection of the consumer's economic interests, it was noted that the consumer needed to be protected against the abuse of power by the seller, in particular against one-sided standard contracts, against the unfair exclusion of essential rights in contracts and harsh conditions of credit, against demands for payment for unsolicited goods and high-pressure selling methods, as well as against damage to his economic interests caused by defective products or unsatisfactory services. Moreover, the presentation, advertising and promotion of goods and services, including financial services, should not be designed to mislead, either directly or indirectly, the person to whom they are offered or by whom they have been requested. Information provided by a producer, seller or service provider should be accurate, and the consumer should be offered an adequate choice between different goods available to him. As regards the right of redress, the European Commission stated that if damage or injury resulted from defective goods or unsatisfactory services, the consumer should receive advice and help in order to file complaints, and that swift, effective and inexpensive procedures were needed in order to allow the consumer proper redress. The right of redress mentioned in the 1975 Consumer Policy Programme therefore reflects what is more commonly referred to as the matter of access to justice. Therefore, the consumer policy program in this respect was justified by the notion that consumers lack equal bargaining power and are entitled to bring their claims in front of a court or tribunal.
From 1975 onwards, consumer policy and consumer protection measures have been on the political agenda. Until the 1992 Maastricht Treaty came into force, consumer policy measures could only be taken with a view to the improvement of the internal market, as there was no other specific legal basis that could be relied on.