UK consumers have continued to use the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) in their thousands, against a backdrop of continued uncertainty created by Brexit.
The UK ECC’s annual report, just published, shows that more than 15,000 UK consumers turned to the service for help in 2018.
The free service, which is currently part-funded by the European Commission and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, offers UK consumers advice in dealing with cross-border disputes relating to buying goods and services within EU countries.
The UK ECC, currently delivered by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), is set to receive funding for at least a year after we leave the EU according to guidance published by the UK Government on 12 October 2018 regarding “Consumer rights if there is no Brexit deal”. The service has an uncertain future after that, given Brexit ambiguity. Until the UK formally leaves the EU, EU law will continue to apply to and within the UK.
Andy Allen, service director at the UK ECC, said: “In 2018 we dealt with 15,089 consumer cases, that’s about the same as the year before. That’s significant, in view of the uncertainty faced by the UK as it faces life outside the EU.
“As the UK heads towards Brexit, it’s clear that UK consumers are still in need of the help and advice of the UK ECC. Our team handled an impressive 9,473 phone calls from concerned consumers in 2018 and we are recognised as one of the most prolific centres on the European Consumer Centre Network.”
Every year UK consumers find themselves in dispute with EU companies over problems with purchases such as timeshares and discount holiday clubs and the resale of both), transport (including air travel and car rental) and recreation and culture (including 'sold-out ticket' events).
Are customers satisfied?
Consumer feedback received by the UK ECC shows a 93 per cent customer satisfaction rate for January to end March 2019, one of the highest ratings recorded by the service.
Andy added: “Our recent figures show the service provided to UK consumers by this team is of paramount importance. Without it, tens of thousands would be left without a means to redress or guidance and with nobody to turn to. This go-to service, which started in 2007, helps thousands of consumers and the feedback speaks for itself.”
Why does it work?
Companies respond positively to the UK European Consumer Centre’s involvement for a number of reasons.
Andy added: “Sometimes traders respond to the UK ECC positively because there has been a lack of knowledge within the company about consumer rights which we are able to rectify, and sometimes it’s because the language and geographical barriers which exist for consumers are reduced when we are involved.
“The UK ECC service is fair and companies may respond because we are a professional and trusted brand delivered by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. Companies may also respond to us positively because the relationship between the trader and the consumer has broken down and it just needs somebody else to act as a go-between. Sometimes the trader just needs that extra little push to do the right thing.”
The continued success of the UK European Consumer Centre comes despite the establishment of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) bodies in the UK and the development of the European Commission’s Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform. ADR bodies provide a process that enable disputes between a consumer and a business to be settled by an independent mechanism outside the court system.
The ODR platform, with its own translation tool, is a facility launched by the European Commission in 2016. It links consumers throughout the EU to whichever ADR body has been chosen by the trader, so that the consumer can make their complaint to the ADR body online.
For more details, check out the UK European Consumer Centre’s website or contact the UK ECC for free advice on your individual circumstances on 01268 886690 Monday-Thursday between 10 am and 4 pm (or email ECCNET-UK@ec.europa.eu)
Notes to Editors
For further information, please contact UK European Consumer Centre’s press office on 01268 582206.
The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 30 centres in the EU, plus Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK. The Network will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.
UK ECC can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel.
UK ECC is co-funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the European Commission. The UK ECC service is delivered by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute http://www.tradingdelstandards.uk/
- Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 01268 886690 Monday-Thursday between 10am and 4pm.
- If in doubt before you buy, contact our sister organisation – the European Consumer Centre for Services – for pre-purchasing advice: www.ukecc-services.net