EU Commission Proposes Goods and Services to be Covered by Anti-discrimination Directive
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The European Commission proposes EU-wide legislation to protect citizens from discrimination on grounds of age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief in the areas of social protection, education and access to and supply of goods and services.
The European Commission proposes EU-wide legislation to protect citizens from discrimination on grounds of age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief in the areas of social protection, education and access to and supply of goods and services which are commercially available to the public.
The proposal for a new EU Directive builds on Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty, which allows for EU legislation to ensure that a minimum standard level of protection against discrimination is applied across all Member States.
In terms of access to goods and services, only professional and commercial services are included. This would bring travel, tourism and hospitality services into the scope of the Directive. Letting of rooms in hotels is specifically mentioned in the Explanatory Memorandum as an example of a commercial service.
On Equal Treatment of Person with Disabilities (Article 4)
The proposal points out that service providers must anticipate the needs of the public, in order not to discriminate, either directly or indirectly, against customers.
- "Effective access for disabled people to social protection, social advantages, health care, education and access to and supply of goods and services which are available to the public, including housing, shall be provided by anticipation".
However, the Explanatory Memorandum to the draft Directive goes on to say: "This obligation is limited by the defence that if this would impose a disproportionate burden or would require major changes to the product or service, it does not need to be done".
Disproportionate burden would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The proposal states that : "Account shall be taken, in particular, of the size and resources of the organisation, its nature, the estimated cost, the life cycle of the goods and services, and the possible benefits of increased access for persons with disabilities. The burden shall not be disproportionate when it is sufficiently remedied by measures existing within the framework of the equal treatment policy of the Member State concerned. What might be appropriate for a large corporation or public body may not be for a small or medium-sized company. The requirement to make reasonable accommodation does not only imply making physical changes but may entail an alternative means of providing a service."
ENAT members and readers of these News pages will note that this latest proposal from the European Commission continues the pattern of recent years by steadily strengthening and widening anti-discrimination legislation. The proposed Directive, if enacted, would provide an EU-wide legal instrument for promoting equal access to all kinds of goods and servces, based on respect for the diversity of the European population. But just how effective it would be when transposed into the laws of the 27 Member States is much too early to say.
Download the European Commission's "Proposal for a Directive on Equal Treatment..." (of 2nd July 2008), from the right-hand column.
Download the European Commision's "Communication on Non-discrimination and Equal Opportunities: A renewed commitment" (of 2nd July 2008), from the right-hand column.