Today, the European Consumer Centre Ireland (ECC Ireland) publishes its annual report for 2012 which reveals that the centre helped secure redress for consumers totalling €112,058.69 last year, an increase of almost 40% on the amount obtained in 2011.


The centre dealt with over 3,300 consumers in 2012, a 9.6% decrease in respect of the 2011 figure. This drop in contacts is attributed to the continuing challenging economic conditions faced by consumers in Ireland and the resulting decrease in discretionary spending.


However, against this backdrop of an overall decrease in the number of contacts made to ECC Ireland, it is notable that the number of cases where the consumer required the direct assistance and intervention of ECC Ireland to resolve their complaint has remained steady. It appears that consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to resolve their disputes unaided. 60% of the cases dealt with by ECC Ireland were successfully resolved in favour of the consumer.


The report, launched by North West MEP, Marion Harkin at Tubbercurry Europe Direct, provides a snapshot of the work of ECC Ireland in 2012 and shows some of the problems which consumers from Ireland and other European countries in contact with ECC Ireland faced during the year.


Commenting at the report’s launch Marion Harkin said, “For Europe to succeed, ordinary people need to know that systems work, that they won’t be ripped off when they buy goods across borders and that if things do go wrong they can contact a free confidential service to assist them in solving their particular problem. The European Consumer Centre in Ireland is funded by the EU and it helps consumers to vindicate their rights in cross border disputes. This is a really valuable service and shows that the EU is concerned with not only putting the legislation in place, but also in helping to ensure the legislation actually protects consumers“.


The report found that the top five areas of complaints which required the further assistance of ECC Ireland were largely unchanged from previous years demonstrating continuing consumer frustration with certain sectors. As in previous years, air passenger rights continued to be the sector attracting the greatest number of consumer complaints in 2012, amounting to 40% of the total number of cases where the ECC liaised with traders directly on behalf of consumers. The other top areas of complaint were electronic goods, car rental, entertainment (a category which includes satellite television and event tickets), car rental and furniture.


Ann Neville, Director of ECC Ireland said, “The level of refunds which ECC Ireland obtained for consumers last year demonstrates the protection offered by consumer legislation and the importance of using the assistance available to pursue your consumer complaint. The sad thing is that very many people are still unaware of our service which is free and confidential and hence were not able to avail of it to solve their consumer complaints.”


ECC Ireland deals with cross-border consumer complaints, where the consumer and the trader are based in different EU/EEA countries.


These case studies show how ECC Ireland helped consumers in 2012:

The grandson of a Belgian consumer, who was a minor, played games on the an Irish social media platform with the computer of the consumer. The consumer gave his authorisation to have his credit card charged for the amount of €15.32 to enable his grandson to buy ‘credits’ when playing the game. However, an amount of €2,885.76 was withdrawn from one credit card, and €734.05 from another. Upon contacting his credit card provider €901.36 was refunded back to the consumer. However, it was then determined that the transactions were legal and as a result €1,356.55 was withdrawn again. In total, €4,075 was charged to the consumer’s credit card. ECC Belgium shared the case with ECC Ireland and following ECC Ireland’s intervention €2,730 was reimbursed.


An Irish consumer contacted us after her 16 year old daughter was refused boarding for a flight with a Spanish airline as the flight was overbooked. She was offered a flight for the next day but was not given accommodation, meals or telephone calls. The airline would only offer the consumer flight vouchers as compensation but gave no indication of the value. ECC Ireland sought assistance from our sister office in Spain who contacted the airline and pointed out their obligations under Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004. The airline agreed to issue the consumer with €250 compensation as required under the Regulation.


For more ECC consumer stories see the full report here