In today’s global market, consumer policy is more important than ever before. Society has to take particular care of consumers who are in need of protection, and to ensure that they can participate in the market and thus in the life of society.
Responsibility for Legislation
The Consumer Policy division of the Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for legislation in the following fields:
- General product safety
- Cross-border cooperation between authorities
- Alternative forms of dispute resolution
- The Consumer Payment Account Act (Verbraucherzahlungskontogesetz), which among other things includes a legal right to a basic bank account with fundamental features.
In addition, we make legislative proposals to other ministries in numerous other fields, such as general consumer law, fair trading law, telecommunications, energy, passenger rights, financial services, etc. We negotiate innovations and reforms of legal policy in Austria as well as in the European Union. In this way we contribute towards strengthening the legal position of consumers.
For comprehensive information on consumer policy and consumer protection, please visit the Consumer Portal.
The consumer website addresses all interested consumers. It provides information about your rights and obligations in consumer transactions and in dealings with money, among other things. We also make a large amount of teaching materials available for teachers (e.g. household budgeting, advertising, the internet, mobile phones and smartphones, and many more.
Asserting Your Rights
Our rights are only effective if we can also assert them in practice. The Verein für Konsumenteninformation (Consumer’s Association), which receives the necessary resources for this purpose from the Ministry of Social Affairs, ensures that this occurs via class actions and test cases. An overview of court verdicts and class actions is provided at www.verbraucherrecht.at.
Consumer education is the third important cornerstone of consumer policy. Consumers need to be sufficiently aware of their role in the market and to know where dangers lie and where they can obtain advice at an early stage. Then they are more likely to be on an equal footing with businesses and are less likely to fall into traps laid by unscrupulous firms and individuals.
Consumer Policy Forum
The minister responsible for consumer protection convenes the Consumer Policy Forum once a year. The forum formulates current consumer policy goals and discusses how they can be asserted.
The participants in the Consumer Policy Forum are organisations such as the Consumer Information Association (Verein für Konsumenteninformation), the consumer policy departments of the Chambers of Labour, regulators in the field of public services (energy, telecommunications, etc.), the Financial Markets Supervisory Authority and the Food Safety Agency, the Federal Competition Authority, the Debt Advice centres, the Patient’s Ombudsman’s Office, the Working Group on Data, motorists’ associations and other organisations such as the Tenants’ Association and the Internet Ombudsman, as well as representatives of science and research.
Consumer Policy in Dialogue 2019
The most recent conference on 17 May 2019 was entitled “Hindernisse bei der kollektiven Verbraucherrechtsdurchsetzung – Wie kann europäisches Recht gegensteuern? (Obstacles to the Collective Assertion of Consumer Rights – How can European Law Overcome Them?)” It focused on the collective assertion of consumer rights in a globalised economy based on the division of labour.
One of the main focuses was the pending class action taken against the VW Group by the Austrian Consumer Information Association due to the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Another focus was the current European proposals for a modernisation directive and a directive on class actions, the so-called new deal for consumers.
Numerous representatives of the business world, consumer policy organisations, ombudsman’s offices and academia as well as other interested parties discussed highly topical issues related to consumer law and consumer policy. Distinguished Austrian and international experts gave lectures or participated in the panel discussions.
- Astrid Stadler, The international responsibility of Austrian courts for legal action against VW in the emissions scandal
- Hans Schulte-Nölke, European place of jurisdiction for offences involving financial losses – How clear does an acte clair need to be?
- Daphne Aichberger-Beig, The right of consumers to damages in relation to fair trading law
- Susanne Augenhofer, One to fit all (or none at all) – thoughts on German test cases, Austrian-style class actions, and the representative action 2.0