Where consumer protection is concerned, says Peter Wilsher, Europe still remains a jungle.
If you buy a washing machine or a toaster anywhere in the European Community these days, you can be reasonably sure that your purchase will meet more or less the same set of specifications. When the brochure says (in whatever language) that it will handle delicate fabrics or deal with bread slices up to 15 millimetres in thickness or operate on 240 volts then that is what your purchase can be expected to achieve. That, after all, was the point of setting up a single market - to facilitate the free movement of goods. Local idiosyncracy is acceptable only when it adds value: otherwise it is to be legislated or 'harmonised' away as a restraint on trade.