Consumer support Consumer support

Recipients of services

The freedom of recipients of services to choose providers that are established in the territory of another member state, along with the freedom of providers to supply their services throughout the EU, are two major aspects for the creation of a true internal market for services. The prohibition of restrictions in this sphere is regulated in art. 56 - 62 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

The freedom to receive services is enshrined in Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market. The aim is to remove unjustified restrictions for recipients that impede the use of services supplied by providers that are lawfully established and have the right to practice in an EU member state other than the one in which the person for whom the services are intended is situated. An essential part of the efforts in this direction is the need to provide recipients of services with access to information allowing them to compare the offers in other countries and choose the best conditions for them. In short, the Directive covers provisions in the following thematic areas:

Prohibited restrictions

It is prohibited to impose requirements on recipients which unreasonably restrict the use of a service supplied by a provider established in another Member State. It is not allowed to introduce obligations for prior authorisation or submission of a declaration to the competent authorities.  And it is not allowed to impose discriminatory limits on the grant of financial assistance by reason of the fact that the provider is established in another Member State or by reason of the location of the place at which the service is provided.

Non-discrimination obligation

Member States must guarantee that the recipient is not made subject to discriminatory requirements based on his nationality or place of residence. This includes also the obligation that the general conditions of access to a service do not contain discriminatory provisions relating to the nationality of the person for whom they are intended.

Assistance for recipients of services

For the purpose of supporting informed decision making about the choice of a supplier in another Member State, service recipients have to be provided with access to information, including by electronic means with updated content. This includes general information on the requirements applicable in other Member States relating to access to, and exercise of, service activities, in particular those relating to consumer protection. It is necessary to provide the contact details of associations or organisations, including the centres of the European Consumer Centres Network, from which providers or recipients may obtain practical assistance.