August 2016 eBulletin: ECC Ireland launches 2015 Annual Report
It’s that time of year again when ECC Ireland releases its 2015 Annual Report. Time sure flies by quickly, or maybe we’ve been so busy here at ECC Ireland HQ helping consumers with their cross-border complaints that it just seems that way? We’ve certainly been kept on our toes as there were 3,503 contacts in total from consumers – that’s a lot of calls, emails, and contact forms – and 695 cases actively pursued by ECC Ireland.
This month’s eBulletin will look at the key findings of the 2015 report which provides a further breakdown of the contacts received and the cases dealt with by our centre and colleagues across the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net). As in previous years, we’ve put together the top five areas of cross-border consumer complaints for 2015.
As always, we also have the consumer query of the month which involves getting a refund of your plane ticket when the airline goes bust.
To find out more read on below or download your free copy of the August 2016 eBulletin here.
2015 Annual Report – helping consumers across Europe
In 2015, ECC Ireland dealt with 3,503 total contacts from consumers, the majority of which (64 per cent) concerned cross-border complaints while the remaining contacts were requests for information.
Whilst the number of complaints decreased by one sixth in respect of the previous year, the number of requests for information increased by nearly five per cent.
Most cross-border complaints involved consumers from Ireland (1,737 complaints) about traders based in other European countries. ECC Ireland was also contacted by 31 consumers with residence in other European countries in relation to complaints against Irish-based traders. Colleagues in other ECC centres also registered 1,925 complaints against traders operating in Ireland, bringing up to 1,956 the number of complaints involving traders with their place of business in Ireland.
The overall number of cross-border consumer complaints actively pursued by ECC Ireland and requiring the further assistance of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) came to 695. Of these, 232 cases involved Irish consumers against traders based in other European countries while 463 cases related to complaints by consumers from other European countries against traders based in Ireland.
Top areas of cross-border consumer complaints in 2015
As in previous years, the 2015 Annual Report provides a further breakdown of the cross-border consumer complaints actively pursued by ECC Ireland thereby revealing what were the most common issues faced by consumers in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe.
Not surprising, air passenger rights was the most popular area of complaint with 285 cases (41 per cent). This category has held on to the top spot year-after-year. With 56 cases (8.1 per cent of cases) electronics goods came in second and was followed by online services (54 cases or 7.8 per cent of cases), car rental (49 cases or 7.1 per cent of cases) and in fifth position was the entertainment category (38 cases or 5.5 per cent of cases).
Other areas of complaint included communications services, hotels and restaurants, clothing and footwear, furniture, car purchase/parts, other transport services, timeshare & holiday clubs, package holidays, health, books/newspapers/stationary, education, housing rent and supplies, and lastly, food and alcohol.
Air passenger rights
- There were 285 cases dealt with by ECC Ireland, the majority of which were complaints made by consumers based in another EU country against Irish airlines.
- Flight cancellations and delays were the number one cause for air passenger-related complaints. Damaged, delayed or lost luggage and problems with the baggage policy of the airline was the second highest category of air travel complaints.
- This category involves complaints regarding online and offline purchases of electronic items such as digital cameras, laptops, tablets, and MP3 players.
- Electronic goods was the second highest area of consumer complaints handled by ECC Ireland. It is consistently appeared in the top five for the last number of years.
- Third highest area of consumer complaint. 2015 was the first time it appeared in the top five.
- Complaints related to services purchased online such as subscriptions, dating agency services, money transfer services as well as antivirus computer services.
- Three in four complaints involved supplementary charges, price increases, and payment-related disputes. Twelve cases concerned alleged damage to the vehicle.
- Eleven cases were in relation to the insurance/cover provided, nine cases due to the condition of the car (for example, breakdowns), and three involved the car rental company’s fuel policy.
- Complaints related to automatic renewal of subscription services, the purchasing of tickets for sporting or other events, memberships, expiry dates on vouchers, game consoles and other products or services used for leisure purposes.
What did ECC Ireland get up to during 2015?
Alternative Dispute Resolution:
During 2015, ECC Ireland continued its work on the promotion of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Ireland. In October, we hosted a major seminar on this topic, together with the Law Society of Ireland, which was opened by Isolde Goggin, chairperson of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and attended by more than 200 stakeholders from the legal profession, ADR entities, and consumer policy representatives.
Cooperation Ireland/Cooperation Europe:
ECC Ireland met with a number of other organisations in order to further develop cooperation and to improve services and information provision to consumers and traders. Organisations we met with include the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation, the Consumer Council of Northern Ireland, the European Commission Representation in Ireland, the Europe Direct Network, and the European Movement. We also played an active role in European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), attending network meetings and participating fully in the role of the ECC-Net.
Media activities, events, and outreach activities:
It was also a busy year for media and outreach activities with 151 media interviews/mentions provided across all media channels. ECC Ireland promoted and provided consumers with information on a range of subjects and events including safer online shopping, the 10th anniversary of ECC-Net, membership subscriptions, supposed ‘free trials’, air passenger rights, and many more.
Around 57 per cent of the media coverage in 2015 was generated from the 11 press releases issued to the media. Other mentions came about through responding to media queries, EC Radio Ireland news wire service, and other communication tools such as the monthly eBulletin. The 2015 media coverage includes the following:
- ‘Irish holidaymakers warned about buying electronics abroad’, (Irish Examiner, January 9th, 2015).
- ‘Beware dating websites that cheat you, consumer watchdog says’ (Irish Times, February 13th, 2015).
- ‘Warranties can be more hassle and money than they are worth’ (Sunday Independent, March 29th, 2015).
- ‘No protection for anyone who buys car in private sales, EU consumer centre warns’, (Irish Examiner, May 20th, 2015).
- ‘So what do you need to know before shopping online?’ (TheJournal.ie, November 21st, 2015).
- ‘Irish to spend €128m on Black Friday bargains’, (utv.ie, November 27th, 2015).
- ‘Cyber Monday: More than €40m likely to be spent in sales blitz’, (Irish Times, November 30th, 2015).
- ‘Irish airlines draw most complaints in Europe’, (Irish Examiner, December 4th, 2015).
Providing consumers with easier access to information via ECC Ireland’s website was also a priority during 2015 with considerable work done on mobile responsiveness, accessibility, and search engine optimisation. New approaches and updates were applied to ECC Ireland’s Twitter account, eBulletin, and other communication tools.
Download your copy of ECC Ireland’s 2015 Annual Report
If you want to find out more, then download ECC Ireland’s 2015 Annual Report here.
Consumer query of the month:
Question: I booked flights with VLM to fly from Waterford to London Luton in August. On June 6th last, however, I received an email stating that the flight had been cancelled as the airline could no longer operate the route this summer, “due to the ongoing lack of crew availability”. They stated that ‘customers having booked via flyvlm.com or call centre will be refunded directly by VLM to the credit card used in the booking process.’ Three weeks have already elapsed and still no sign of any refund. I understand that the airline has since gone bankrupt. What can I do?
Answer: We understand that although Belgian airline VLM announced on June 4th last that its route Waterford to London Luton would be discontinued from June 16th, services were effectively terminated from June 8th as a break in services from that date had been previously arranged. The airline had applied to the Antwerp commercial court on May 13th last for bankruptcy protection and on June 22nd the airline declared bankruptcy, cancelling all operations and shutting down its website.
Although the airline advised that customers who had booked their flights directly on the airline’s own website or via their call centre would be refunded through the card used to make the reservation, we would suggest requesting chargeback from your card issuer company/bank, given the airline’s limited ability to operate at present. Please note that unsecured creditors, such as consumers, are typically quite far down on the list of creditors in the event of insolvency or liquidation. Should further assistance be required our office may seek additional information from our Belgian counterparts as to the status of the bankruptcy procedure.
Press and Communications Officer
The European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting customers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is funded by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the European Consumer Centre cannot be held responsible for matters arising from any errors or omissions contained in this publication. The information provided is intended as a guide only and not as a legal interpretation.
© 2016 – European Consumer Centre (Ireland) Ltd, MACRO Centre, 1 Green Street, Dublin 7. Company limited by guarantee in Ireland, No. 367035 – Registered Charity No. 20048617 – CHY14708.
This ebulletin is part of the action 670695 – ECC-Net IE FPA which has received funding under a grant for an ECC action from the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020).
The content of this ebulletin represents the views of the author only and it is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Consumers, Health, Agriculture, and Food Executive Agency or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.