TACD Public Forum 2023: For better or for worse? The EU-U.S. cooperation and its impact on consumers

On June 27, 2023, the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) hosted its public forum marking the first in-person event since 2019, the forum brought together policy leaders, experts, and advocates from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss the achievements and challenges of bilateral cooperation and its implications for consumer welfare. The event delved into critical topics such as digital regulation, right to repair, food and beverage marketing to children, climate change, and emerging challenges in the digital age through engaging panel discussions and breakout sessions.

Fireside Discussion: EU-U.S. cooperation – is it delivering on its promises?

Moderator Monique Goyens, BEUC, and TACD European co-chair, facilitated a thought-provoking discussion between EU Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Didier Reynders, and Professor Olivier Sylvain from the Federal Trade Commission, U.S.

Picture of the panel of the Fireside discussion with EU Commissioner Didier Reynders and FTC's Olivier Sylvain, moderated by Monique Goyens

This fireside opened the forum with EU Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Didier Reynders, and Professor Olivier Sylvain from the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. They highlighted the common concerns discussed in the informal dialogue on consumer protection between the EU and U.S., including generative artificial intelligence (AI), right to repair, and commercial surveillance. Olivier Sylvain stressed the importance of collaboration to stay on top of emerging technologies. Participants lauded that the establishment of the FTC’s Office of Technology was lauded as a positive step toward better understanding and regulating new technologies in the marketplace.

Reining-in big tech monopolies: how to develop a Transatlantic regulatory response?

Moderated by Robert Weissman, Public Citizen, U.S., the panel brought together Sara Collins from Public Knowledge, Vanessa Turner from BEUC, Jon Nathan from the Federal Trade Commission, and Thomas Kramler from the Directorate General for Competition, European Commission, to discuss challenges and opportunities in controlling the excessive power of big tech on both sides of the Atlantic.

Vanessa Turner from BEUC emphasized the need for more specialists who understand the technologies to enable more effective enforcement. Thomas Kramler from the Directorate General for Competition, European Commission, highlighted the resource-intensive nature of current antitrust investigations and advocated for additional frameworks to regulate big tech. The discussion underscored the need to go beyond traditional antitrust measures to address the rapidly changing digital market.

Breakout Session: Right to repair: A way to a more sustainable future

Tomaso Falchetta, Privacy International, expertly moderated this session that featured R.J. Cross from U.S. PIRG, Cristina Ganapini from the Right to Repair Europe coalition, and Martins Prieditis from the Directorate General for Justice and Consumers, European Commission, highlighting the global significance of the Right to Repair movement.

During this session, participants explored the global movement for the Right to Repair. R  from U.S. PIRG and Cristina Ganapini from the Right to Repair Europe coalition emphasized the significance of this policy and its concrete impact on people’s lives. The breakout session highlighted the potential for the EU and U.S. to learn from each other and strengthen the Right to Repair movement together.

Breakout Session: Surveillance and manipulation for breakfast, lunch and dinner: Regulating the pervasive and persuasive impact of food and beverage marketing

Under the guidance of Isabelle Buscke, vzbv, Germany, the panel delved into the world of food and beverage marketing aimed at children. It featured insights from Emma Calvert from BEUC, Jeff Chester from the Center for Digital Democracy, Yara Qutteina from KU Leuven, and Guilherme Roschke from the Federal Trade Commission.

The panel on food and beverage marketing discussed the challenges posed by sophisticated digital tactics employed by companies targeting young people, particularly those from marginalized communities. Emma Calvert from BEUC explained the weaknesses of the ‘EU Pledge,’ a commitment by food companies to responsibly market products towards children. Jeff Chester from the Center for Digital Democracy stressed the need for robust regulatory interventions to address public health concerns.

Are EU and U.S. trade policies compatible with the fight against climate change?

Picture of the trade panel at the TACD 2023 Annual meeting with Léa Auffret (BEUC), Delphine Sallard (EU Commission), Greg Burton (U.S. mission to the EU) and Melinda St Louis (Public Citizen), and moderated by Iana Dreyer (Borderlex)Iana Dreyer, Borderlex, moderated the panel that brought together Léa Auffret from BEUC, Greg Burton from the U.S. Mission to the EU, Delphine Sallard from the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission, and Melinda St Louis from Public Citizen to discuss aligning trade policies with climate change initiatives.

The panel examined the interplay between trade rules and climate policies. Melinda St Louis  urged the EU and US policymakers to rewrite global trade rules to encourage, rather than undermine, climate initiatives. Léa Auffret from BEUC emphasized the need to align trade and climate policies to achieve climate goals effectively. The discussion called for a harmonious approach that prioritizes environmental protection and consumer welfare.

New Frontiers of Digital Regulation

Moderator Finn Myrstad from the Norwegian Consumer Council,  led the discussion on emerging challenges in digital regulation, featuring Christian D’Cunha from the Directorate General CNECT of the European Commission, Claire Fernandez from EDRi, Calli Schroeder from EPIC, and Professor Olivier Sylvain from the FTC. The panel emphasized the need for systemic reform and action to address the overarching harms of digital technologies.

Picture of the Digital panel at the TACD 2023 Annual meeing with Claire Fernandez (EDRi), Olivier Sylvain (FTC), Christian D'Cunha (EU Commission), Calli Schroeder (EPIC) and moderated by Finn Myrstad (Norwegian Consumer Council)The session on new frontiers of digital regulation explored challenges posed by rapidly evolving digital technologies. Calli Schroeder from EPIC stressed the importance of changing corporate behavior through effective regulations, rather than targeting technologies alone. The participants agreed on the need for systemic reform and action to address the potential harms of digital technologies, with impacts both on consumer and human rights.

In her closing keynote speech, Blanca Rodriguez Galindo from the European Commission highlighted the diverse range of EU-U.S. cooperation. She emphasized the importance of addressing various consumer-related issues, from influencer marketing and green claims to Buy Now, Pay Later schemes, and the impact of e-commerce on product safety. Galindo acknowledged that through the Transatlantic discussion forums, valuable insights and perspectives are exchanged, enabling both regions to move forward collaboratively. Her speech served as a powerful reminder of the significance of continued cooperation in shaping consumer-centric policies and regulations on both sides of the Atlantic.

The TACD Public Forum 2023 provided a valuable platform for policymakers, consumer advocates, and experts to critically assess the impact of EU-U.S. cooperation on consumers’ well-being. Through interesting panels and breakout sessions, the forum highlighted the progress made so far by this cooperation, identified areas that require further attention, and called for continued collaboration to promote fair and safe markets while protecting consumer  and human rights on both sides of the Atlantic.

More about the programme of the public forum here.