By Daniel Hunter

The EU is right to see achieving a genuine single market as key to economic growth but wrong to regard retail only as a sector that needs more regulation.

Reacting to Together for New Growth - the European Commission's two-year plan to ‘boost growth and strengthen confidence' through the single market (published today Wednesday) - the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the document re-states some good intentions but what matters is action.

"At a time when the Commission should be thinking big to cure Europe's economic ills, this plan shows a disappointing lack of ambition," British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said.

"A genuine single market will play a significant part in achieving economic growth. But the reality is that some member states have not even implemented existing single market rules and still have barriers against retail investment by British firms. The Commission should be addressing this issue. Instead its only specific reference to retail is a threat to regulate commercial relationships with suppliers.

"The plan talks vaguely about encouraging full implementation of the Services Directive which would stop member states blocking foreign investment but we need practical implementation on the ground and a fundamental change in the way grand strategies like this are followed through."

On Environmental labelling

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "A Europe-wide environmental label has been under consideration for a while and we certainly do need a consistent and reliable system to be developed before any decision to establish a compulsory label.

"There are some tough questions to be addressed about which environmental factors are included in the methodology and the extent to which consumers want this and would know what to do with it if they saw it."

On Cross-border interchange fees (charges levied by banks on retailers for processing card payments by customers in one EU state buying from another)

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "I'm pleased that the Commission intends to continue efforts to tackle these unjustified multilateral interchange fees.

"The decision to take legislative action before the middle of next year shows some progress towards a fairer payments system for European business and consumers. But it's frustrating that meaningful action is still some way off. The Commission should take decisive action quickly - until this happens, retailers and consumers continue to suffer the cost of an anti-competitive payments system.

On Product Safety

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: "Obligations for the safety of branded products which ought to lie with manufacturers shouldn't be imposed on retailers. The UK's risk-based approach to rules and enforcement is the right one."

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