Foundation for effective consumer policy
ConPolicy - the Institute for Consumer Policy - guides and advises political leaders charged with the development of an effective consumer policy. Furthermore, ConPolicy supports businesses as they seek to act in the best interest of their customers.
With our research and information about developments in international consumer policy, we provide public authorities with the components needed for a quality policy for consumers. With our consulting services and social media analyses we also support businesses in meeting the expectations of their customers. What distinguishes ConPolicy is our focus on cross-cutting consumer issues, our evidence-based approach and our international expertise.
ConPolicy’s Current Projects and Publications
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and ConPolicy will host workshop series on the state of consumer interest representation in Germany
Due to deregulation, liberalisation and globalisation consumer markets have gained in complexity for consumers. In light of these developments it is to ask whether the current landscape of consumer organizations is still adequately equipped to represent consumers in markets. This question will be elaborated in a workshop series which is organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung with technical support by ConPolicy. The workshops will investigate, inter alia, (new) challenges to consumer protection, the relationship between public and private consumer institutions, the institutional, legal and financial preconditions for an effective consumer representation and international best practice.
ConPolicy celebrates its 3rd anniversary and says thank you
Today ConPolicy – the Institute for Consumer Policy – is celebrating its third anniversary and thanks its partners for their support in the previous years.
Last year the Institute implemented a privacy innovation project for the German Federal Consumer Protection Ministry (BMELV), and worked together with a diverse set of partners including the European Commission, the German Federal Ministry for Social Affairs, the German Council for Sustainable Development, the German Foundation Consumer Protection, the NRW Ministries for Consumer Protection, Economy and Science and corporate partners such as quirin bank, Siemens, REWE and Deutsche Bank.
This year the Institute will expand its research and consulting services on the national and European level and initiate new projects in the realm of social media analysis.
ConPolicy evaluates Mini-Contracting-Programme for the NRW Ministry for Climate and Consumer Protection
Low-income households can often not effort replacing inefficient household appliances such as fridges. The Wuppertaler Stadtwerke (the local energy provider) has launched a programme that aims to offer low-income households such as pensioners and students to participate in a mini-contracting-programme to replace their old inefficient fridge with a new energy efficient one. The Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia (MKULNV) has commissioned ConPolicy to evaluate the programme to derive lessons that can be learned when broadening the programme to other regions in North Rhine-Westphalia. Final results will be published at the end of 2013.
ConPolicy moderates “CSR-Dialogue Business – Academia” of the NRW Ministries for Economy and for Sciences
In recent years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is gaining in importance. Therefore it is important that future employees and mangers already at the university are sensitized for this issue and gain the necessary competences. With the conference “CSR-Dialogue Business – Academia” the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministries for Economy and for Sciences want to give impulses to strengthen CSR in research and teaching, build cooperation between universities that work on CSR and encourage cooperation between businesses and academia. ConPolicy Director Dr Christian Thorun moderates the conference.
ConPolicy presents résumé at a workshop of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung on impact assessments in consumer policy
Consumer policy deals with a wide range of markets and challenges. Political interventions therefore often have wide implications for consumers and businesses. Often these impacts are not systematically analysed and taken into account in the political process. Hence some demand more impact assessments in consumer policy. Today the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung invites to a workshop on the topic “More empirical evidence in consumer policy? Thoughts on the introduction of impact assessments”. In the workshop a study about more empirical foundation of consumer policy by means of impact assessments will be presented. The study was commissioned by the German Federation of Consumer Organisations. ConPolicy Director Dr Christian Thorun concludes the workshop with a résumé.
ConPolicy moderates Luncheon-Debate „CSR – Made in Germany“ for the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Brussels
Last year the European Commission published its Communication on CSR. Today the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) invited interested parties to a Luncheon-Debate in the Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic. The objective of the debate was to explain the approach of the Federal Government in more detail and to let other stakeholders that are part of the national CSR-Forum present their views. The debate was moderated by ConPolicy Director, Dr Christian Thorun.
ConPolicy presents status quo analysis of consumers in markets at a conference organized by the Bundestags-Fraction of the Social Democrats
Consumer markets have radically changed in the past decades. In a conference with the title “Strengthening consumer interests – Introducing consumer watchdogs” the Bundestags-Fraction of the Social Democrats investigates how the market power of consumers vis-à-vis companies can be strengthened particularly in the markets for financial services, energy, health and in the digital world. In this context, ConPolicy Director, Dr Christian Thorun, will present a status quo analysis of consumers in markets. Furthermore he participates at a panel discussion on the issue “The concept of consumer watch dogs – an adequate instrument to empower consumer interests?” He will debate this issue with Dr Carsten Sieling (MP), Gerd Billen (Executive Director of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations), Herbert Jüttner (Member of the Management Board of the Bankenverband) and Dr Bernhard Rohleder (Director General of BITKOM).
Innovation project “Privacy portal – Your right to access” successfully concluded – Kick-off for its realization
Privacy issues are of increasing relevance for consumers. For this reason for the last 15 months the German Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection (BMELV) financed the innovation project “Privacy portal – Your right to access”. The portal reduces the burden for consumers to make use of their right to access. Furthermore, tools should support companies to systematically and more effectively process consumer requests to access their personal data. The project was jointly implemented by the IT-company Consist Software Solutions GmbH, the Unabhängigen Landeszentrum für Datenschutz Schleswig-Holstein (ULD) and ConPolicy. With the development of a prototype for such a portal, the project has been successfully concluded. The project partners thank all parties that have contributed to the success. The next step is to win the support of consumer and privacy advocates and of companies to jointly implement the portal.
ConPolicy organizes next stakeholder meeting of Forum Waschen
Cleaning and Washing are part of the everyday life of consumers. The kind of cleaning products, their ingredients and consumption habits have a great impact on how sustainable these everyday routines are. This and next year ConPolicy supports the Forum Waschen in the organization of the 12th Stakeholder Workshop in March 2013. The Forum is a sustainability initiative in the areas of cleaning and washing, that was awarded as a Werkstatt-N-Project by the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) in the years 2011 and 2012. It took also part in the week of the environment 2012 which was hosted by the German President and the German Bundesstiftung Umwelt. Since 2002 experts from politics, academia, unions, producers of cleaning products and cleaning equipment, churches and NGOs cooperate in this forum.
ConPolicy presents study on lessons from the Retail Distribution Review and the ban of commissions in the UK
Commission payments in financial services will be banned in the United Kingdom (UK), the Netherlands and Australia in the next year. Today the results of the study “Towards a fairer deal for consumers and the financial industry” are published. The objective of this study is to shed light on the rationale for such a drastic regulatory overhaul, to analyse the anticipated impacts of the ban on the financial industry and consumers and to draw lessons from this intervention. In so doing, the UK Retail Distribution Review is analysed in a case study, and experiences from other EU and non-EU countries as well as the academic literature is reviewed. The study was conducted by ConPolicy together with Prof. Roll & Pastuch Management Consultants for the Association of German Fee-Only Advisers and the quirin bank AG. (The results oft he study can be downloaded here and the full version is to be found here.)
ConPolicy conducts a joint study for DG SANCO on the training needs of European consumer organizations
Consumer organizations play a critical role in market economies: they provide consumers advice, act as watchdogs, give consumers a voice in the political debate and are involved in consumer law enforcement. Despite their importance, the capacity of consumer organizations to fulfill these functions varies enormously between the member states of the European Union. The Executive Agency for Health and Consumers, acting of behalf of the Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO) contracted a study to identify the priority training needs of consumer organizations to develop further capacity building activities. This project will be implemented by IBF International Consulting through the involvement of individual experts and ConPolicy and with the collaboration of Euromonitor. ConPolicy Director Dr Christian Thorun will lead the team of experts.
ConPolicy moderates Workshop on regional products at the Dialogue Forum 2012 of the REWE Group
In a Dialogue Forum the REWE Group addresses the questions how sustainability can become more attractive to consumers and be steered from niche to the mass market. Representatives from NGOs, academia, politics, media, industry and 100 consumers will participate at the forum. In one of the workshops participants will deal with regional products. The following questions will be addressed: What requirements do products need to fulfil to be considered regional? How do the participants view the new REWE product line “REWE Regional”? What information about regional products and the concept of regional products do consumers want. This workshop is moderated by Dr Christian Thorun, Director of the ConPolicy GmbH.
ConPolicy advises Indian Government on the creation of a Consumer Protection Agency
Indian consumer suffer from misleading advertisements, unfair trade practices and unsafe products. While the Indian Consumer Protection Act of 1986 is widely recognized as a very powerful and encompassing legal basis, its enforcement is weak. German International Cooperation (GIZ) advises the Indian government on the creation of a National Consumer Protection Agency. Together with an Indian expert ConPolicy developed recommendations for the mandate, instruments and structure of this new agency. In so doing ConPolicy analysed German and European practices and identified factors for success that can be transposed to India.
ConPolicy moderates conference on CSR in SMEs for the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
Small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) represent the backbone of the German economy in which 99 percent of all companies are SMEs which employ more than 60 percent of the work force. Hence SMEs play a key role in operating socially responsibly (CSR). On th 20th of April 2012 the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) hosts a conference to launch the new programme "CSR in SMEs". In the conference current topics and risks and opportunities for SMEs are discussed (Information about the conference). The conference will be moderated by Dr Christian Thorun, Director of ConPolicy GmbH.
ConPolicy presents study on employee and consumer interests at a DGB workshop
Ensuring employment, decent working conditions and a fair pay on the one side, low prices on the other side: At first look employee and consumer interests seem to be at odds. While this tension should not be neglected, the reality is more nuanced. In some instances employees and consumers have both been victims of past liberalizations and privatizations and they both suffer from high sells-pressure, e.g. in the financial services market. In a study which was financed by the German Hans-Böckler-Stiftung ConPolicy investigated how employee and consumer interests are related. In doing so foundation documents of labour unions and consumer organisations were analysed and two case studies were conducted in the telecommunication and electricity markets. The results are presented at a workshop hosted by the DGB (Confederation of German Trade Unions) today. Dr Christian Thorun discusses the results of the study with the member of the executive board of the DGB, Claus Matecki, and the Director of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, Gerd Billen, and other participants.
ConPolicy moderates debate on responsible consumption
Which are the pathways to responsible living? - The PERL-Conference „Beyond Consumption: Pathways to Responsible Living“ will explore this question with international guests at the Technische Universität Berlin within the next two days. ConPolicy-Director Dr Christian Thorun moderates the opening panel discussions on the topic „Rio+30: Going beyond consumption“. Discussants are the author of the international bestseller „Prosperity without Growth“, Prof Tim Jackson (University of Surrey, UK), Fanny Demassieux (UNEP), Dr Vanessa Timmer (One Earth, Canda) and Victoria Thoresen (Associate professor at Hedmark University College, Norway).
ConPolicy moderates workshop of the German Sustainability Commission
Sustainability labels are an important instrument to enable public and private consumers to purchase sustainable products and services. Labels can communicate product features which cannot be seen (such as labour conditions). However, today consumers are confronted with a great variety of different labels which makes it difficult for them to distinguish between credible and non-credible ones. Today the German Sustainability Commission hosts a workshop about the question how consumers can get better orientation and how the quality of labels can be improved. ConPolicy moderates and documents the workshop.
ConPolicy commences work on an E-Commerce online label for China
An E-Commerce label will be introduced in China to better protect Chinese consumers in E-Commerce. This week work on the project commenced. On the German side the project is conducted by Hans-Wolfgang Micklitz (European University Institute, Florence), Kai Purnhagen (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich), Gerald Spindler (Georg-August-University Göttingen) and Christian Thorun (ConPolicy). Together with their Chinese colleagues they will develop a proposal for such a label until mid-2012. The project is financed jointly by German International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC).
ConPolicy to provide behavioural studies to the European Commission
For a couple of years the European Commission increasingly seeks to base its consumer policy on a sound evidence base. In July 2011 the Commission issued a call for a Framework Contract for the provision of behavioural studies. A consortium which is led by London Economics and which comprises also of Nuffield College (University of Oxford), Ipsos MORI and ConPolicy was awarded a framework contract. The objective is to provide studies related to consumer and citizen behaviour by means of behavioural methods in the coming four years.
Study on consumer protection in E-commerce in China and Germany published
E-Commerce is growing rapidly in China and Germany. A comparative research project investigated how consumer protection could best be achieved in E-Commerce in both countries. ConPolicy together with other experts was responsible for the analysis of the situation in Germany and the European Union: Malte Krüger (Fachhochschule Aschaffenburg); Hans-Wolfgang Micklitz (European University Institute, Florence); Kai Purnhagen (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich); Gerald Spindler (Georg-August-University Göttingen). The study was financed by German International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce. The results of the study are now published with C.H.Beck München/Hart Oxford/Nomos Baden-Baden.
ConPolicy at BVL-Symposium on Challenges in 2012
While there exist largely harmonised European standards for rights supporting the economic protection of consumers, in practice these rights are often breached, both nationally and cross-border. On 7 November 2011 the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) organised a Symposium, at which the following questions were discussed: How can consumer law be more extensively and effectively be enforced? How can consumers be strengthened in a market which appears to be becoming more and more complex? ConPolicy-Director Dr Christian Thorun moderated the first session on "Enforcing consumer law effectiely- nationally and cross-border". Participants were: Gerd Billen (Executive Director of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations), Dr Malek Radeideh (Head of Economic Consumer Protection, BVL), Barnadette van Buchem (Director, Dutch Consumer Authority), Fernand Van Gansbeke (Director, Belgian Federal Public Service Economy) und Tamás Molnár (Head of Unit, DG SANCO).
ConPolicy at the Consumer Policy Congress NRW
Consumer information, collective redress, surveillance - the Consumer Policy Congress NRW, which took place at the 13th of October in Cologne, investigated how consumer rights could more effectively be enforced. ConPolicy-Director Dr Christian Thorun participated in the forum “More regulation - How much surveillance do markets need”. The forum focused, inter alia, on the question whether measures such as the introduction of an advice protocol or the new product information sheet for financial services were sufficient and adequate means. Dr Thorun engaged in a discussion with Beate Block (Ministry for Consumer Protection NRW), Thorsten Höche (Association of German Banks), Dr Annabel Oelmann (Consumer Advice Center NRW) and Michael Sell (Federal Financial Supervisory Authority).
Human Rights and Business: ConPolicy moderates debate
The question which role businesses play in protecting human rights has gained public attention in recent years. In June 2011 the UN Human Rights Council adopted the "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights" which have been developed by Prof John Ruggie. These principles explain how companies should fulfill their human rights responsibilities. On 28th of Sept 2011 BP invited to a workshop to take stock. What do these principles mean for businesses, governments and NGOs? What are the challenges in implementing them and what role do the various stakeholders play? ConPolicy Director Dr Christian Thorun moderated the debate between representatives from businesses, government and NGOs.
Digital Public Affairs: ConPolicy advices und trains press officers
In order to represent political interests effectively, press officers not only need to know how to communicate with classical media, but also how to use the Internet and social media. Together with the CEO of Sellgate Hamburg Wolfgang Hennes ConPolicy advices political organisations and companies how to most effectively use the Internet in their public affairs strategies. Together they also published an introduction to Digital Public Affairs with the Association of German Press Officers. Furthermore, starting in autumn they are going to teach an online seminar on Digital Public Affairs at the Quadriga Academy Berlin. In the seminar Sachar Kriwoj, Devision Deputy Digital Public Affairs at E-Plus-Group, and Sebastian Haselbeck, Community Manager at the Google Co:llaboratory, will share insights into their companies' experiences with social media. (Further information can be found here.)
ConPolicy launches innovation project "Privacy portal - Your right to access"
Privacy issues have loomed large in recent years in the public debate in Germany. Many consumers do not trust companies in their handling of consumer data. To improve data protection ConPolicy works in a project to develop the "Privacy portal - Your right to access". The Internet portal should reduce the burden for consumers to make use of their right to access. Furthermore, tools will be developed that assist companies to systematically and more effectively process consumer requests to access their personal data. The project is financially supported by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Consumer Protection (BMELV) and will be developed jointly by ConPolicy, the Unabhängigen Landeszentrum für Datenschutz (ULD) and the IT-Company Consist.
Sustainable Consumption: ConPolicy participates at expert workshop
Despite a growing awareness among consumers for sustainability issues consumers have not yet changed their consumption patterns significantly. In an expert workshop on sustainable consumption the Otto Group asked the question what businesses, politics and civil society can do to reach out also to those consumers who do not yet show an interest in sustainability issues. In a policy paper ConPolicy Director Dr Christian Thorun lays out his perspective. His key argument is: Consumer information alone is insufficient to change consumer behaviour towards more sustainability. A more dimensional approach is necessary that includes inter alia measures to internalize external costs (Download German version .pdf).
Financial Services Supervision: ConPolicy moderates debate
The Financial crisis has spurred changes also in financial services supervision. In the US the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been created and in the EU three newly established supervisory authorities are now tasked also with consumer protection. At a conference of the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) the question was discussed which factors need to be considered for an effective supervisory regime. ConPolicy director Dr Christian Thorun moderated a discussion between the Executive Director of the European Banking Authority, Adam Farkas, and two representatives of US and EU consumer organizations, Norma Garcia and Manfred Westphal.
ConPolicy conducts Social Media Analyses by using a tool that was developed at the MIT
Consumers increasingly use the Internet to search for information and to share their experiences about brands, products and services. For both consumer policy and businesses it is important to know what consumers are talking about. ConPolicy conducts Social Media Analyses and uses the social-media-analysis-tool Condor of Galaxyadvisors AG. The tool was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by Dr Peter Gloor (further information).
ConPolicy Director selected as new member to the Think Tank 30
Climate change, the demographic development and the overuse of natural resources pose serious challenges to our societies. For more than 40 years the Club of Rome has worked towards more sustainability. Since 2004 the Club is supported by an interdisciplinary network of young people who are organized in the Think Tank 30. ConPolicy Director Dr Christian Thorun was selected this year as one of the new members.
Hannover Messe: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
More and more companies recognize that a responsible business conduct also has to encompass responsibility for societal issues. Together with the Forum for Sustainable Development of German Business (econsense) and the UPJ-network the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) hosts a forum on Sustainable Development and CSR at the Hannover Messe. ConPolicy Director Dr Christian Thorun will moderate the sessions of the Federal Ministry. In these sessions both the German government and businesses will present their diverse projects (Flyer).
ConPolicy Director appointed to supervisory board of fairtrade certifier - FLO-Cert
The demand for Fairtrade products has grown continuously. One of the factors for success of Fairtrade products is the credibility of the Fairtrade label. The FLO-Cert GmbH is responsible for the world-wide compliance of all producers with the standards of the Fairtrade Labelling Organization. ConPolicy Director Dr Christian Thorun will support the work of FLO-Cert in its supervisory board in the next three years. 130 independent inspectors control 1100 retailers in 79 countries as well as 1.000 producer groups in 60 countries.
WISO direkt: What consumer policy can learn from behavioural economics - International lessons
Behavioural economics challenges a number of economic dogmas. In particular it questions the view of human beings being a rational and self-interest maximizing homo oeconomicus. For consumer policy behavioural economics promises a range of insights. While consumer policy makers in Great Britain and at the EU-Commission already integrate insights from behavioural economics in their work, this is not the case in Germany. In this policy brief Director of ConPolicy, Dr Christian Thorun, concludes that this lack of integration of behavioural insights by German consumer policy makers should be rectified. In so doing traditional instruments of consumer policy can be improved and new and more effective instruments might be applied (Download German version .pdf).
Consumer advice in India: ConPolicy develops Toolkit
Consumer advice to individual consumers is essential to ensuring that consumers take conscious purchasing-decisions and are aware of their rights and responsibilities. In the previous years the Indian government has begun to put in place a State Consumer Helpline. German Technical Cooperation has flanked this initiative by setting up Consumer Advice Centres in four states in a pilot project. At the end of the pilot phase ConPolicy develops a Toolkit for the set-up and running of Consumer Advice Centres and State Consumer Helplines. For this Toolkit Indian and international practices are analysed and a hands-on toolkit with practical guidance is developed.
Study: Consumer oriented supervision of financial services
Nationally and internationally it is debated how consumer protection can be improved in the market for financial services. The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) commissioned ConPolicy to investigate what Germany can learn from British and Irish experiences with institutionalized consumer protection in financial services supervision. The results of the study were presented at a vzbv-conference at 25 October 2010 in Berlin. The study builds upon a study by Keßler, Micklitz and Reich and investigates further some questions from a political science perspective.
E-Commerce in China: ConPolicy gives advise to Chinese government
Trade in the Internet booms in China and poses challenges to consumer protection. In a research project, that is financed by German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), a German-Chinese team of experts will analyse in the next six months practices in Germany and the European Union and assess to what extent they can be transposed to China. ConPolicy will provide its expertise in consumer protection to this project.
Consumer policy research in Germany debated
Politics relies on policy research and advice. On 3 September 2010 the German Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung together with the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) organized a round-table. Experts discussed the question whether prominent assumptions of many German policy-makers about an “enlightened” consumer were based on facts and what consumer policy research should and could do to improve the effectiveness of consumer policy. Dr Christian Thorun, Director of ConPolicy, moderated the first panel with Prof Dr Claus Offe (Hertie School of Governance), Gerd Billen (Executive Director of the Federation of German Consumer) und Dr Christian Grugel (Director in the German Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection). Michael Fischer, responsible for consumer policy at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, published an article that summarizes the conclusions of the workshop (Download German version .pdf).
ConPolicy Director accepts teaching assignment
The newly founded Quadriga Hochschule Berlin trains communication managers. ConPolicy Director, Dr Christian Thorun, will teach a course on “Foundations and Principles of Politics”. Students will be introduced to the academic discipline of political science and theory, political decision-making and the main institutions and players in the German political system.