Brussels, 17th June 2015
EU Directive on equal treatment in access to goods and services
As the EPSCO Council is meeting on the 18th June to discuss – among other issues – the proposed directive on equal treatment, AGE Platform Europe wishes to draw attention to the need to adopt a strong piece of legislation that sufficiently protects citizens from age discrimination.
On 17th June, during the debate in the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Latvian Presidency explained that the Council Working Party on Social Questions, which is in charge of the negotiations of the so-called Horizontal Directive, suggested a new exemption from the principle of age equality. This new provision relates to preferential pricing, allowing commercial actors to apply different rates, fees or charges for specific age groups.
AGE Platform Europe, the representative EU-wide network of older persons, fears that a new exemption on the ground of age would create a fertile ground for abuse and might nullify the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of age, which according to the European Court of Justice is a general principle of EU law .
‘Whereas AGE members agree that preferential treatment for younger and older persons should, under certain conditions, be retained, such policies need to be fair and justified, without causing harm to individuals. A blanket exemption from age equality, would allow providers to make their products and services prohibitively expensive so as to exclude at their convenience specific age groups from accessing them’, warns Anne- Sophie Parent, Secretary General of AGE Platform Europe.
AGE Platform Europe is strongly advocating against a broad exemption with regard to age discrimination. The draft text presented in the December 2014 EPSCO Council already included a number of exceptions for age, including provisions that allow for positive action, such as preferential pricing, as long as it serves a legitimate aim and does not abrogate the general equality principle.
As part of a coalition of NGOs representing millions of people at risk of discrimination, AGE has produced a common statement that debunks the main excuses that we still hear from Member States not to move forward with the Directive and calls for its speedy adoption. While the momentum of the renewed European Commission commitment for the adoption of this law should be seized, extra attention should be paid so that nobody is left behind.
‘As the Council is reaching tangible progress in the adoption of this much needed piece of legislation, we should make sure not to water down the protection for specific groups, like older people, who are often victims of discrimination in access to goods and services’, continues Mrs. Parent.
AGE would like to encourage the Council to consult representative organisations of people affected by the suggested exemptions, alongside the European Parliament, in order to rapidly overcome the technical difficulties and work towards the adoption of a strong and meaningful text affording equal treatment to all EU citizens.
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