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Brussels, 18 June 2008

European Consumer Centres Network increasingly empower consumers –2007 Report

The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), today published its Annual Report for 2007 reflecting a productive year, helping more than 55.000 consumers with information and advice on cross border shopping, both in person and online, ensuring that they are aware of their rights, and providing support in handling complaints. Consumers increasingly turn to the ECCs for help, with an increase of 5000 contacts since 2006. In 2007, most complaints tackled by ECCs concerned contract terms (25%), product and service (22,4%), and delivery (20%). The sectors mostly concerned were air transport and car rental, internet scams and fake lotteries, and non delivery of audiovisual products. More than half of complaints concerned on-line transactions (55%). The report highlights some of the joint sectoral projects, such as on air passenger rights. It gives details of the main events in 2007, (World Consumer Day in March, Co-operation days, seminars), as well as details of success stories for consumers with real-life examples which were resolved with the help of the Network. It also includes summaries of activity per country.

EU Consumer Protection Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva said: 'Consumers should be empowered to make informed choices about the goods and services they purchase. Their interests should be promoted and defended, particularly in view of the increasing complexity of the markets in which they operate. The ECCs represent a key tool in providing consumers with information and direct help with cross border problems'.

Main findings

Most complaints tackled by ECCs concern contract terms (25%), product and service (22,4 %), and delivery (20%). Most problems concerning contract terms relate to rescission of contracts (70%). Cooling-off periods represent 19% while unfair contract terms account for approximately 7%. Complaints on product and service are mainly about defective items (49%). 27% of product and service-related complaints focus on non conformity. Complaints with regard to delivery were about the lack of delivery altogether (71%)! Delays represent 18% of cases. More than half of complaints concern on-line transactions (55%). Sales in shops and other commercial venues ("on the premises") involve 24,7% of the cases. Distance selling only amounts to 9%.

The greater part of the complaints concerns mainly the transport services (22%), the audio-visual sector (10%), the recreational and cultural services (12%), the timeshare sector (6%), the purchase of vehicles (4%).

Other ECC activities

Apart from information to consumers on both EU and national rules as well as advice to individuals facing consumer related cross-border problems, they have also helped consumers to reach agreements on complaints with traders using out-of-court dispute resolution mechanisms. Contacts are increasing yearly – 19% in 2006 and a further 10% in 2007. With the help of latest technology in the form of a new database launched in January 2007, co-operation between centres will be even more efficient in the future. The ECCs provides valuable input for the European Commission on consumer policy issues.

Joint projects and events

Apart from handling information requests and complaints, ECCs have been running joint projects, such as a review on complaints regarding air passenger rights (project carried out by ECC Belgium, Ireland and Sweden), "Howard" the on-line shopping assistant (ECC Denmark and Ireland), an information campaign with leaflets on tourism (15 Centers including ECC Spain, Germany, Cyprus and France as co-coordinators).

They were key organizers of other awareness-raising initiatives such as the campaign on the EU Timeshare Directive, the "You choose!" campaign on the opening of national energy markets, the new "Eurotariff" GSM roaming legislation, and other information actions.

For further information on ECCs:

For information on joint projects:

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