News item

Consumers still face obstacles when shopping online, says UK ECC

Many consumers still experience problems when shopping online; this is shown in a new report released 24 October 2012 by The European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). For the last two years, more than half of the cases received by the entire ECC-Net across 29 countries, 31,000 complaints, concerned online purchases.


Most problems concern reported non-delivery, defective products and non-conformity with order. Germany, France, United Kingdom, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are the countries receiving the most cases, not surprising as these countries represent the largest e-commerce markets in the EU with the most e-commerce transactions.


One of the problems that consumers experience is that traders do not always apply the distance selling rules with the result that consumers are denied their legally established cooling-off period. Other issues can be that certain services are not provided to a specific country, fake web traders and counterfeit products.


The report says that despite the number of issues faced by consumers the experience is that online shopping is increasing and developing.


Research by the UK ECC shows that just over 49% of all complaints it received in 2010 and 2011 from UK consumers in dispute with EU traders and also from EU consumers in dispute with UK-based traders involved       e-commerce.


Adam Mortimer, consumer adviser at the UK European Consumer Centre, said: “Shopping online in the internal market offers consumers incredible choice, value and access to an enormous 24-hour marketplace from the comfort of their homes.


“Consumers are often concerned about whether their rights will be respected if something goes wrong in another country and as a result lack confidence in cross-border online trade. But consumers should not be confused by or hesitant about cross-border shopping. E-commerce is the way to shop in the future. Consumers should be prepared to explore the possibilities and gain the advantage of cross-border shopping. With some caution and common sense, the main issues and traps can be avoided.”


The report shows that payment security, non-delivery, lack of dispute resolution mechanisms and fraud are still the main obstacles preventing consumers and businesses from engaging more in e-commerce, especially cross-border.


Adam said: “We believe, however, that these causes of concern are progressively receding, thanks to the combined impact of better legislation, more adapted technological tools to secure payments, more diligent internet traders and more vigilant consumers.”


Research by the UK ECC shows that over 2010 and 2011, 72% of complaints received about UK traders involve e-commerce as the selling method. In comparison, just over 25% of complaints from UK consumers involve the internet over the same period..


Adam added: “The number of complaints is still high, but whereas the number of complaints about UK traders by European consumers using e-commerce is reducing, the picture is different regarding the number of complaints by UK consumers about traders elsewhere in the EU – this is going up slightly.”


One of the purposes of the report is to continue to raise awareness about traders’ obligations and consumer rights both amongst traders and consumers.

Practical do’s and don’ts

The report provides checklists for both consumers and traders. By using checklists with practical advice ECC-Net recommends consumers to:

?    know who you are dealing with

?    pay safely

?    avoid scams

?    understand your commitment


If a trader sells products or services to consumers through a website they must meet certain legal obligations. By using the checklist for traders, traders can take a quick look at the obligations that apply in the EU.  


“The European Online Marketplace, Consumer Complaints 2010-2011” highlights the current practical and legal problems consumers experience when engaging in cross-border online shopping. It is a summary of cross-border problems reported by individual consumers to the ECC-Net.


If UK consumers find themselves in dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK, they can contact the UK ECC – our advisers will assist consumer in the attempt to resolve the complaints. Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 08456 04 05 03 weekdays between 10am and 3pm.


***ENDS***

Notes to Editors


For further information please contact UK European Consumer Centre’s press office on 08456 08 96 06.


UK European Consumer Centre – 08456 04 05 03


The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 29 centres covering Europe, 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, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and the European Commission.


The UK ECC service is delivered by the Trading Standards Institute (www.tsi.org.uk)


Media queries should sent to ecc@tsi.org.uk or by phone on 08456 08 96 06.


•    The UK ECC provides advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK and will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.


•    Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 08456 04 05 03 weekdays between 10am and 3pm.


•    If in doubt before you buy, contact our sister organisation – the European Consumer Centre for Services – for pre-purchasing advice: www.ukecc-services.net