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European Commission - Press release

EU consumers rate poorly financial services and fuel markets

Brussels, 21 October 2011 – Financial services, investments (including pensions and securities), mortgages and real estate services are the markets which are the most likely to be failing consumers across the EU, according to the latest Consumer Markets Scoreboard. Among goods markets, second-hand cars and fuels have the poorest ratings. As in 2010, services markets continue to underperform, with financial services and network services all below average. Electricity supply and fuels have deteriorated most in comparison with 2010. The Scoreboard’s main index ranks the consumer markets, in terms of consumer trust, satisfaction, the ease of comparing offers, problems and complaints. Consumer choice, the ease of switching service providers or tariffs, and price differences between countries are also monitored. The purpose is to identify markets that appear most at risk of malfunctioning for follow-up studies, which analyse problems in depth and identify policy responses. Based on the latest findings, the European Commission will probe the consumer credit and fuel markets.

Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli said: "The value of the Single Market for consumers is measured by what it delivers for them in terms of quality, greater choice, lower prices, transparency and satisfaction. Thanks to the Scoreboard, we can see where this does not seem to be happening. The process is about evidence-based policy to real problems that consumers face in the Single Market. Businesses that respond to consumer needs will be rewarded by consumer choice”.

The annual Consumer Markets Scoreboard ranks 51 services and goods markets, covering more than 60% of household budgets, to see which are likely to be failing consumers across the EU.

Key findings

  • Services markets continue to underperform, with financial services (e.g. consumer credit) and network services (e.g. electricity) all below average.

  • Overall, investments (including pensions and securities), real estate services and mortgages are the three lowest-performing consumer markets (in 2010, these were investments, real estate and internet provision, IP/10/1369).

  • Goods markets on the whole appear to be working much better. Exceptions include second-hand cars and vehicle fuels, which have scored lowest in the goods category (in 2010, these were second-hand cars, clothing and footwear, and meat; see IP/10/1369).

  • Compared with 2010, the electricity and fuels markets have deteriorated most, which may reflect consumer sentiment about electricity and fuel prices.

  • When the perceived ease of switching the provider or tariff plan is considered as well as actual switching by consumers, mortgages, investments (including pensions and securities) and electricity supply score lowest of the 14 service markets analysed.

  • 64% consumers are satisfied with the choice of goods or providers (across all markets). This suggests that choice is less of a problem for consumers than issues such as trust in traders and the ability to compare offers.

The full report, including national ranking results, can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumer_research/editions/cms6_en.htm

Next steps

As a follow-up, the European Commission will launch two market studies on:

  • Consumer credit, which scores poorly in the Scoreboard, particularly in terms of trust and comparability. As the Consumer Credit Directive comes up for review in 2013, the findings will provide rich evidence for assessing the impact of the EU current rules. The study will not cover the mortgage sector because it is already the subject of a recent Commission proposal (IP/11/383).

  • Fuels. The fuel market ranks second-lowest among goods markets and has seen the largest deterioration since 2010. It is the fourth largest market in terms of its share in the household budget. Additionally, the multitude of fuel designations can be confusing for consumers, with a possible impact on the single market.

For many of the other problematic markets, in-depth studies have already been carried out (e.g. for electricity, retail financial services) or are in progress (e.g. for internet provision) -- see MEMO/11/718 for details.

Background

The main purpose of the Consumer Markets Scoreboard is to identify markets that appear most at risk of malfunctioning for consumers, for follow-up studies which analyse problems in depth and identify policy responses.

The main index used by the Scoreboard to rank 51 markets is the Market Performance Indicator (MPI). The index is composed of consumer survey results concerning: (1) trust in retailers/suppliers (2) overall satisfaction (3) the ease of comparing offers (4) consumer problems and complaints. Separately, the Scoreboard also monitors switching suppliers and tariffs (for 14 service markets), consumer choice on each market, and price differences between EU countries for over 100 goods and services.

Contacts :

Frédéric Vincent (+32 2 298 71 66)

Aikaterini Apostola (+32 2 298 76 24)


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