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Commission Opinion [COM(97) 2008 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(98) 707 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(1999) 501 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2000) 0701 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [SEC(2001) 1744 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2002) 700 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2003) 676 final - SEC(2003) 1210 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2004) 657 final - SEC(2004) 1199 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Commission Report [COM(2005) 534 final - SEC(2005) 1352 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Treaty of Accession to the European Union [Official Journal L 157 of 21.06.05]
In its Opinion of July 1997 the Commission considered that to meet Community requirements on the protection of consumer interests, Bulgaria needed to accelerate its drafting of legislation on the matter. Although the convergence process provided for by the European Association Agreement had been initiated, the fundamental principles of the Community acquis had not yet been transposed into Bulgarian national legislation.
The Report of November 1998 confirmed this appraisal. The alignment of national legislation on Community rules in this field, considered a medium-term priority in the partnership for accession, still needed to be speeded up considerably.
The Report of October 1999, on the other hand, noted that significant progress had been made in this area, particularly following the adoption of a new law on consumer protection and trade rules, which incorporated the main elements of the Community acquis.
The Report of October 2002 pointed out that real progress had been made in transposing legislation, that the negotiations on this chapter had been temporarily closed and that Bulgaria had not requested transitional arrangements in this area. The report nevertheless stressed that a major effort was still needed to effectively implement the legislation that had been transposed, particularly by means of effective surveillance procedures.
The Report of October 2003 stressed that there had not been any progress as regards safety measures. However, some progress had been made in other areas, e.g. the acquis relating to package holidays had been transposed and had entered into force in January 2003.
Considerable efforts were still needed to transpose and apply the Community acquis concerning consumer protection, and also to improve the functioning of the market-surveillance mechanism.
The Report of October 2004 explained that little progress had been made. The legislative framework needed to be improved, in particular as regarded safety (the acquis concerning liability for faulty products, general product safety and dangerous goods) and the introduction of an effective market-surveillance mechanism.
The Report of October 2005 notes that the acquis concerning safety and, in particular, liability for faulty products and general product safety and dangerous imitations of foodstuffs has yet to be implemented. The report also stresses the need to improve the brand new market-surveillance mechanism for non-food products so as to ensure consumer protection as regards non-food products.
The Treaty of Accession was signed on 25 April 2005 and accession took place on 1 January 2007.
Existing Community rules cover the protection of consumers' economic interests, general product safety, cosmetics, the designation of textile products and toys.
Consumers' economic interests concern, inter alia, the monitoring of trade descriptions, the indication of prices, consumer credit, unfair terms, distance selling, package holidays, sales away from business premises, time share property, actions for injunctions and certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees.
General product safety covers factors such as liability for faulty products, bans on dangerous imitations of foodstuffs and distance-selling of financial services.
In addition, the proper application of this acquis requires effective market-surveillance and the active participation of independent and representative consumer associations in the development of consumer policy.
Consumers must also be aware of their rights and know how to use both judicial proceedings and out-of-court or amicable settlements of consumer disputes. Where such procedures do not exist, they must be set up as part of the Community acquis. Consumer information and education measures must also be promoted.
Consumer protection and free competition are enshrined in the Bulgarian constitution as fundamental economic principles. The Bulgarian authorities intended to have finished incorporating the consumer protection directives into national law by the end of 1998, but this has still not been completed eight years after that target date.
In March 1999, Bulgaria adopted a law on consumer protection and trade rules with a view to transposing the acquis. In accordance with this new law, a national council for consumer policy was set up in 2000.
The Report of 2005 notes the need to strengthen coordination between this national council and the other institutions and bodies responsible for implementing consumer law, including the National Metrology and Technical Surveillance Agency.
In addition, the Report of 2005 warmly welcomes the decision of the Bulgarian government to upgrade the Department of Consumer Protection (within the Ministry of Energy and the Economy) to an independent directorate. This future directorate will help raise the profile of consumer policy.
The law on consumer protection and trade rules also encouraged the establishment of new consumer associations, whose number has remained stable since 2004. There are currently 14 such associations.
At present, the degree of participation of consumer organisations in the drafting and implementation of consumer policy is very low. The Bulgarian government should pay more attention to consumer associations. The aim should be to enable them to play an active role in adopting and applying consumer legislation. The Report of 2005 recommends that consumer policy and consumer participation in the various policies be given higher priority.
In 2003, consumer associations sought to strengthen their position with the establishment of a federation comprising half of them, the National Union of Consumer Associations. The other groups of associations are not members of a federation but are closely linked to the Bulgarian Consumers' Federation
The priorities of the new strategy on consumer policy for the period 2004-07 include introducing an effective market-surveillance system, increasing aid for non-governmental consumers' associations and strengthening the authorities responsible for consumer affairs. Government financial support for these organisations had increased somewhat in 2004.
Safety measures. Market-surveillance
Again, little progress has been made on the market surveillance mechanism.
This mechanism must be improved if the safety of non-food products is to be guaranteed.
In addition, Bulgaria is integrated into the RAPEX system for rapid intervention where products pose a serious risk.
Measures not related to safety
The Report for 2005 states that Bulgaria must continue to transpose the Community acquis, particularly as regards actions for injunctions in connection with consumer protection, time-share property, consumer credit, contracts negotiated away from business premises and distance selling of financial services to consumers.
In addition, the conciliation commissions for settling consumer disputes must be made more effective. The number of disputes settled by these commissions remains very low.
The negotiations on the consumer policy chapter have been temporarily closed, but efforts to bring existing provisions into line with the acquis in the areas mentioned should be pursued.
Last updated: 10.01.2006