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UK European Consumer Centre

EU consumer complaints about UK traders on the rise

Green thumbs up, red thumbs downThe UK ECC has seen a 10% increase in the number of cases about UK traders it has handled over the past year.

The collaborative nature of the European Consumer Centre Network, of which the UK ECC is part, means that the UK ECC also gets involved in complaints by European consumers who have problems with UK traders as well as handling complaints by UK consumers about EU traders.

The UK ECC’s newly-published 2018 annual report shows that 1,599 European consumers turned to the service for help in 2018, an almost 10% increase on the previous year’s figure of 1,459. These are cases referred to us by our counterpart European offices.

A number of factors could be responsible for the increase in complaints about UK traders. Analysis of the UK ECC’s 2018 figures show that the overall 10% increase in the number of complaints about UK traders seems to have been mainly caused by a decrease in complaints in two particular sectors, coupled with a rise in another sector. The likely reasons for this are not straightforward.

Andy Allen, service director at the UK ECC, said: “The two sectors with fewer complaints about UK traders were transport, and clothing and footwear. These decreases are likely to be attributable to two factors: a reduction in the number of overseas visitors to the UK in the first three quarters of 2018, as well as 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 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. 

“Figures from the European Commission show that the most complained about sectors for consumers who used the ODR platform throughout the EU in its first two full years of operation - 2017 and 2018 – are in fact clothing and footwear, and airline tickets. This could account for why complaints into the UK European Consumer Centre by EU consumers about UK traders in these two sectors has reduced. The European Commission figures also show that the majority of traders against which consumers submitted a complaint are in Germany, the UK and Hungary.”

The sector which the UK European Consumer Centre received more complaints about UK traders in was recreation and culture. It includes complaints about electronics, laptops and recreation and cultural services. 

Andy said: “One theory about the increase in the recreation and culture sector could be that consumers may be just as likely to buy items such as electronics, laptops and ‘sold-out’ event tickets online as they are in person, so the drop in overseas visitors to the UK in the first three quarters of 2018 is less likely to have had a negative impact on the number of complaints.”

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