2020 was a busy year for the UK European Consumer Centre, as our consumer advice centre was formerly known.

Early during the COVID-19 pandemic, the centre (which started in 2007) saw a record number of enquiries in a 48-hour period (in April 2020), with more than 1,000 consumers seeking its expertise and advice in relation to airline flight cancellations. This was the biggest influx of consumer enquiries since the 2010 Icelandic volcanic ash cloud chaos.

Figures show that in the whole of 2020, the centre helped 12,287 UK consumers, that’s an increase of almost 25% (24.8%) over 2019.

COVID-19 has affected the kind of cases dealt with by the UK International Consumer Centre.  54% (1,331) of all cases received in the first quarter of 2021 were regarding items purchased online, an increase of 28% (1,040) on the same period in 2020. 

The UKICC saw 306 cases regarding delivery problems in the first quarter of 2021, an increase of 22% on the same period in 2020.

Andy Allen, Service Director at the relaunched UK International Consumer Centre, said: “This likely goes hand in hand with the increased number of online orders by UK consumers, combined with Brexit complications and challenges arising from COVID-19.”

In the first quarter of 2021, the UKICC received 301 complaints against booking intermediaries – particularly in the travel and transport sectors - where consumers were struggling to get refunds for cancelled flights. The average loss per consumers was £1,958.197

Although we had previously received complaints about booking intermediaries, COVID-19 appears to have exacerbated the problem.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the UKICC has worked to supply the Consumer Protection Partnership and the Competition and Markets Authority with anonymised cases around travel and voucher issues.

Andy said: “The work the UK International Consumer Centre does to assist the CPP and the CMA with information relating to cases where consumers have struggled to get refunds for cancelled flights has a very positive impact for consumers. It helps CMA to take appropriate action to bring individual companies back into line with their obligations in consumer law.”