Simplifying EU legislation: the case of REFIT

Effectiveness, efficiency, simplicity and costs minimization are all essential elements of the European Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance programme, also known as “REFIT”. The aim of REFIT is to keep European law simple, remove unnecessary burdens and adapt existing laws that may no longer be “fit for purpose” and, therefore, need to be adapted.

The REFIT Programme is included in the preparation of the annual Commission work programmes, each of which includes proposals for new legislative initiatives and a review of existing EU laws. In practice the REFIT evaluates potential benefits, including from an economic point of view, of each new proposal. This is done through impact assessments, which means assessing the effects of EU laws by retrospective evaluations and stakeholder views, which are collected through consultations.

Such consultations are usually launched to get as many views as possible from stakeholders. That is why the Commission works closely in cooperation with the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, EU Member States and other stakeholders, such as EU citizens, industry, business and consumer associations, and many others, depending on the subject. The idea is that stakeholders will have the opportunity to directly make recommendations on how to reduce the burdens of EU laws. The next step is an in-depth analysis of the stakeholders’ suggestions of the input received by the REFIT platform and the Commission.

How are laws simplified?

On an annual basis, the Commission launches a set of simplification initiatives within its REFIT programme. Simplification can be achieved through different means, and, in particular, changes can be made to existing law via:

  • codification: all amendments made to a piece of legislation over the years are incorporated into a single new act, reducing volume and complexity;
  • recasting: similar to codification, but in this case the legislation itself is amended at the same time as previous amendments are incorporated to form one consolidated text;
  • repeal: unnecessary and irrelevant laws are removed;
  • review/sunset clauses: laws are reviewed or automatically removed after a given period
  • revision: laws are modified to keep them up-to-date;
  • replacement of directives with regulations, so that all EU citizens are subject to the same rules and national governments can’t add extra requirements;
  • withdrawal of laws that have not yet been adopted if they become obsolete due to scientific or technical advances or if they are no longer in line with new policy objectives;
  • replacement of legally binding laws with softer alternatives such as voluntary agreements (i.e. self-regulation, co-regulation).

Supporting clients in contributing to public consultations

Dr2 Consultants provides support in advancing the interests of various clients in several sectors. One of them is Ecommerce Europe, the European association representing the e-commerce sector towards European policy makers. The latest contribution of Ecommerce Europe, and supported by Dr2 Consultants, was its response to the public consultation for the Fitness Check of EU consumer and marketing law.

This consultation is part of the ‘Fitness Check’ of EU consumer and marketing law. The purpose of the Fitness Check is to evaluate if six EU consumer and marketing directives are still fit for purpose on the basis of the criteria of effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU added value.

The findings of the Fitness Check – in general – will provide the basis for future policy initiatives in this area. The current consultation, ending on 12 September, includes forward-looking questions on the potential means of modernizing EU consumer and marketing rules. Much more lobbying will follow after the consultation, as the law-making process is far from being over, especially when analyzing six major EU consumer and marketing directives, a major undertaking for all those involved; , EU institutions, industry and consumer organizations.