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Vulnerable consumers [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for vulnerable consumers.


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Poor old woman in her home, looking into the camera.

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While EU laws protect you as a consumer against many misleading and aggressive commercial practices, they provide special protection for consumers who are particularly vulnerable due to their mental or physical infirmity. EU laws forbid sellers to profit from such disadvantages to get consumers to buy something they would not buy normally.

Some practices often used to prey on vulnerable consumers are now banned completely. EU laws ban sales techniques that impair the average consumer’s freedom of choice through harassment, coercion use of physical force, or by exploiting their unfortunate circumstances.

For instance, Europe has banned vendors from trying to make you believe you cannot leave a place without buying something. Equally, visiting your home, despite a request to leave or not to return, is also banned. Creating a false impression that you have won a prize, when there is no prize to be won, or that you have to advance money or buy something before claiming the prize, is also not allowed. Similarly, including an invoice seeking payment in marketing material that gives you the impression you have already ordered a product is also forbidden.

In addition, EU laws recognise vulnerable consumers as a special category in the context of energy poverty, referring to people that are not able to pay their energy bills, especially for heating and cooling. EU countries have to introduce measures to help such consumers, such as banning heating disconnection in winter or introducing social tariffs for electricity and gas.

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