Tuesday, 3 December 2013

What do consumers complain about? Prices' and services' differentiation.

The ECC-Net published a report "Enhanced Consumer Protection - the Services Directive 2006/123/EC. Analysis of Article 20.2 and Article 21 related consumer complaints reported to ECC-Net between 2010 and 2012". This network gives consumers free professional advice related to their problems with cross-border transactions within the EU (incl. Norway and Iceland). As the name suggests this report analyses two years worth of reports on consumer complaints submitted with regards to the cross-border transactions they concluded. While the aim of the EU is to create a more uniform European internal market where consumers would be able to benefit from deals not only in their own home countries but also in other European Member States, in order to achieve this objective the same level playing field needs to be created for consumers. This means that consumers should not be discriminated based on their nationality or place of residence (e.g., if you want to buy a good in Poland, you should be offered it under the same price whether you reside in Poland or in Greece). That being said, 74% of the received complaints concerning services showed that consumers were offered different prices (based mostly on their residence ) while buying goods online (167 cases of different treatment out of 222 reported to ECC-Net), 21% complaints were related to services in the tourism industry and 5% in the rental and leasing services. The service providers mostly introduce differences in providing their services and in their prices by either redirecting consumers to national websites for limited access to retail goods, or by tailoring offered services to the consumer's country of residence. Consumers mostly complained about the refusal to supply, price differentiation and difference in other conditions of access (e.g. requirement to have a bank account in a given country). 72 cases out of 222 (32%) required active intervention on behalf of consumers with a nearly 50% rate of success. Only 12 cases were reported to relevant enforcement authorities with only one decision having been made by these authorities. More data can be found in the report, but the ECC-Network signalises that more should be done to make the Services Directive effective for consumer protection.

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