Monday, 2 May 2011

Howard - the shopping assistant

As it has been many times mentioned on this blog the European Commission pays more and more attention to protection of consumers in their online transactions. More and more articles, interviews, newsletters and websites help consumers find out what their rights online are and how to deal with online transactions. No doubt, the goal of the EC is to create a better environment for the cross-border online transactions and to contribute to their increase which is supposed to improve the inner market of the EU. That doesn't change the fact that individual consumers might benefit from this increased attention.

One of the websites is the so-called Howard - the shopping assistant. You can access this website to check if a certain web trader can be trusted. How does it work? You enter the url (website address) of the European website that you wish to buy something from (any website that end in .com, .net, .eu, .nu) and then Howard (little cute owl, by the way) tells you what he knows about this website (e.g. date of registration of the webshop, gives results for a search in various search engines which might show you positive or negative comments on the webshop, says whether the webshop belongs to any trade organization). This might be a good way to avoid fraudulent web traders as well to get good advice on reliable traders. The website also gives links to price comparison sites, explains warranty cancellation rights etc. Howard is not new, it has been created in 2007, but with every year it becomes accessible to more and more EU consumers (more countries create their national Howards, in their own languages), so hopefully soon it will be of use to all EU consumers. Of course, every information that Howard provides you with can be easily found if you do some research online yourself, but to have it all in one place may be helpful for less internet savvy consumers.

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