What does the UK European Consumer Centre do?
We provide advice and assistance in the event of a cross-border dispute between a UK consumer and a trader based in another EU country or Iceland or Norway.
Do you charge for your services?
No, we don't make any charge for our services.
I live in the UK but am a citizen of another country, can you still help me?
Yes. We provide our service to consumers normally residing in the UK.
I have a dispute with a trader based in the UK, can you still help?
Unfortunately not. If you are also based in the UK, you will need to contact the Citizen's Advice consumer service who provide advice on domestic consumer problems.
If you are based in another European country, you will need to contact your local European Consumer Centre.
If you are based outside of Europe, you may wish to speak to our sister organisation - the European Consumer Centre for Services - who will be able to assist you in finding an organisation that is more suited to dealing with your enquiry.
Can you help me with any problem?
The UK European Consumer Centre can provide advice and assistance in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air and other travel and car hire. We do not give advice on financial services. If you are in doubt whether we can give you any advice, it’s best to give us a call and we can let you know if we can help you. If your complaint or enquiry falls outside our scope we will always suggest a more appropriate organisation for you to contact.
Are there any conditions before you’ll help me?
We usually get involved when consumers have exhausted their own efforts to resolve a dispute directly with the trader. We are often able to get a more positive response from the trader than the consumer will have done alone. We have counterpart offices in most European countries and are often able to contact the trader, through them. This avoids the logistical and language difficulties which consumers often face.
Anyone can contact us for advice. If the advice we provide does not resolve your case, we will in certain circumstances be able to contact the company on your behalf. We call this ‘mediation’ and although we cannot guarantee a successful outcome, we will always try our best to get your case resolved. In order to help you with mediation, we will need you to have made efforts to get the problem resolved. Our general advice to all consumers who are having problems with a trader is to make contact with them first, preferably in the form of a letter (with proof of delivery).
What happens after you’ve accepted my case or complaint against a trader?
Firstly we will give you advice specific to your case or complaint. Our remit is to provide advice on law – we cannot advise on how likely your case is to succeed nor can we provide an opinion. If you are then not satisfied with the outcome or response from the trader, we may in certain circumstances be able to contact the company on your behalf. We have counterpart offices in most European countries and are often able to contact the trader through them. When a case is shared with another European Consumer Centre, we require certain information from you (the consumer) to allow our counterpart office to make a full legal assessment of the case. This information varies, although we will always let you know what we need from you. Once a case has been passed to our counterpart office, there will be no need for you to make any further contact with the trader. Our counterparts will inform the trader of their responsibilities under law. We will keep you informed of any new developments in your case as and when they happen. If we are unable to resolve your case, we will suggest other avenues that may be suitable for you.
How long does it take for you to get a result?
Each case is different - it depends on the particular circumstances. Occasionally we have had positive results in as short a space as an hour, but that is very unusual. Once we have shared the case with our counterparts in another country, they must contact the trader to remind them of their legal responsibilities or try to get a good will gesture from them. Our service is advisory – we do not have any enforcement powers and cannot compel traders to take any action or accept our point of view. We are often able to get a more positive response from the trader than the consumer will have done alone. This can take several months, but we will keep you updated at least on a monthly basis as to any progress. If, ultimately, we are not able to get the result the consumer would like, we can provide guidance on any further options available to you.
Do you assist in Small Claims cases, or any other legal matters?
If we are unable to obtain a satisfactory outcome in your case we will always advise of any further action you can take. If you decide to take legal action, we can advise you on where you can find information on how to do this but will not be able to assist any further.
For information on cross-border small claims via the European Small Claims Procedure, please click here.
Why can't you take action against a trader?
Our remit is to provide advice and assistance in relation to consumer disputes. We have no powers to take any legal or enforcement action against a company. Our involvement in a case may result in a satisfactory outcome for the consumer but unfortunately, we cannot guarantee to be able to resolve any case.
Do you refer information to enforcement authorities?
From time to time we do refer information that will be of use to the enforcement authorities. A referral to an enforcement body will not necessarily result in a consumer being refunded and we have no influence on whether an investigation is launched as a result of the referral. If we do refer information, this may assist other consumers if the enforcement body decides to take action.
Will you return my documents once I have sent them to you?
If you do decide to send your documents to us, we suggest that you send copies only - as it is better for you to keep all original documents. If you do request that we send your documents back to you, please let us know and we will be more than happy to do so.
Unfortunately, we cannot take any responsibility for original documents that become lost or damaged in transit.
If you are unsure as to whether or not we can assist in your case, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.