Annual Conference

ERFF hosts an annual conference in Brussels on ‘Consumers at the heart of finance in Europe’. This consumer-focused event brings together representatives from consumer organisations across Europe, along with business and EU policymakers, to address issues and possible solutions related to cross-border retail financial services.

The inaugural ERFF conference, in September 2018, was co-hosted by the European Economic & Social Committee (EESC) and ERFF in Brussels at the EESC. The event was opened by Ariane RODERT, President of the Section for Single Market, Production and Consumption, EESC. MEP Othmar KARAS of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) and Renatas MAZEIKA, Head of Unit for Consumer Policy at the European Commission, gave opening remarks. These were followed by two interactive panel sessions, with panellists representing consumer groups, business and EU policymakers.

The event focused on two key questions. Firstly: How close are we to “a genuine technology-enabled Single Market for retail financial services where consumers can get the best deals while being well protected”? The ensuing discussion focused on progress and next steps related to the Commission’s Action Plans on Consumer Retail Financial Services and FinTech.

Secondly, the conference turned to the topic of Building transparency & trust for a sustainable future. Here, the discussion was linked to the Commission’s Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth, as well as broader issues of transparency; clear and simple advice and products; building consumer trust in the financial industry; and encouraging saving and investment.

The 2nd ERFF ‘Consumers at the heart of finance in Europe’ in November 2019, was inspired by ERFF’s 2019 ‘Consumer Journey’. Through a series of dialogues and meetings with consumers and policymakers, ERFF explored where consumer expectations are being met – and where this is not yet fully the case – in the context of EU policy and regulation in retail financial services. These activities culminated in an ERFF Discussion Paper structured around three key areas that were also addressed at the conference: opening a bank account and daily banking; obtaining credit and investment; and pensions and insurance.

EESC (President of Group I (Employers), Mr Jacek KRAWCZYK, gave an opening welcome. Consumers and business representatives shared a first panel discussion on their issues and concerns around the three key topics and explored synergies and common ways forward. The second panel comprised policymakers from the European Commission (DGs FISMA and JUST), the European Banking Authority and the Finnish Presidency of the EU Council. Guided by questions from two moderators, one consumer and one business representative, the policymakers responded to the issues raised in the first panel.

MEP Billy KELLEHER from the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) gave a lunchtime address highlighting the value of bringing industry, policy makers and legislators, and consumers together in such a conference. He also noted that there is still much work needed to open up cross-border retail financial markets in Europe and to ensure that consumers benefit fully from the opportunities this can provide.

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