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Classifying consumer complaints and enquiries
The Commission wishes to improve the production of statistical information concerning complaints made by European consumers. This information may be used to analyse the functioning of the European internal market. In 2007 and 2008, 16 % of European consumers requested the resolution of disputes involving professionals.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a harmonised methodology for classifying and reporting consumer complaints and enquiries [COM(2009) 346 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
European consumers that are dissatisfied with a consumer product may make a complaint against the seller. Consumers then apply to specific national organisations, public or non-governmental (consumer associations, etc.). The disputes concerned may be limited to national level or concern different European Union (EU) countries.
Statistical data relating to consumer complaints and enquiries can be used by policymakers at national and European level to assess the functioning of consumer markets. In particular, it can be used to:
- understand the problems encountered by consumers buying products and services in Europe;
- adapt consumer protection legislation;
- improve the practices of European businesses;
- compare the situation in consumer markets in European countries.
Specifically, the Commission uses a Consumer Markets Scoreboard to compare several types of statistical data (complaints, prices, consumer satisfaction, product safety, etc.).
However, European Union (EU) countries currently use different methods to record and classify this data. The Commission therefore proposes a single European methodology for classifying statistical data. This methodology should be adopted on a voluntary basis by the national organisations responsible for consumer complaints and enquiries.
The Commission proposes a methodology consisting of three sections in order to collect:
- general information, concerning, for example, the country of the consumer, the complaint date and the selling method used for the product;
- sector information in three separate areas: the economic sector, the type of market and consumer market description;
- information about the type of complaint and general points concerning all consumers (misleading advertising, safety, service provision, etc.).
All of the organisations applying the methodology should send their information to the Commission, respecting the confidentiality of consumers and businesses.
The Commission has launched a public consultation on its data classification methodology project.