Basildon Consumer Centre staff face job losses without new EU/UK agreement
Staff at Basildon's UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) face redundancy if the UK Government and the EU fail to agree on its future role before December 31.
A total of 11 staff – mostly specialist legal consumer advisers whose role is to advise UK consumers about transactions with EU-based companies – face the axe and thousands of UK consumers could be left unprotected if the centre closes because of a lack of an agreement.
The UK ECC, founded in 2007, is part of a network throughout EU member states plus Iceland and Norway offering UK consumers support with queries about companies and products purchased in those states.
In May, the centre reported a surge in consumer queries directed at the centre, with Republic of Ireland-based Ryanair's mass cancellation of flights a key catalyst for the rise. By mid-August, the UK ECC had registered 7,067 consumer cases since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown on March 23.
The consumer centre network relies on cross-border cooperation with fellow ECC offices which liaise with overseas businesses on their behalf.
The centre, hosted at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), employs 11 staff in Basildon, Essex, and is joint-funded by the UK Government and the European Union; however, the Brexit negotiation phase has created uncertainty about the future of the centre with funding from the EU likely to be removed at a time that demand for the service seems to be rising.
Andy Allen, Service Director at UK ECC, said: "The UK ECC could face closure, the 11 staff could lose their livelihoods and thousands of UK consumers would have no-one to help them in their disputes with traders in the EU if an EU Exit agreement is not made.
"It is possible that staff could lose their jobs because at the moment nobody can decide whether to keep the centre open past December 31.
"It is feasible that a decision could be made to start up again sometime in the future, but this is not a tap that can be turned back on again at a moment's notice – these are specialist jobs. That future decision will be cold comfort to the staff who would already have been made redundant.
"UK ECC is the only service of its type available to UK consumers. It's a service that's free to consumers using it. For 13 years, we have helped many hundreds of thousands of consumers, and we will continue assisting them throughout 2020.
"I ask that the UK Government understands the critical role UK ECC performs in the UK consumer protection landscape and works out a solution which retains this valuable service during the negotiations."
Consumers should contact the UK ECC with any queries by emailing the centre at firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Editors:
CTSI Press Office: email@example.com, 01268 582240
Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)
CTSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities. CTSI's members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. www.tradingstandards.uk