European Consumer Centres’ Network celebrates its tenth anniversary
Dublin, 10th June 2015 – The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) is celebrating its ten-year anniversary.
ECC Ireland, together with its sister offices across Europe, are marking ten years since the establishment of ECC-Net. A new report released this week reflects on the network’s numerous achievements since it first came into operation in 2005, foremost among which is the assistance provided to over 650,000 consumers.
The report also draws attention to the changing nature of the consumer landscape in Europe. E-commerce has become increasingly popular in the years since the network was established and now accounts for more than two-thirds of contacts received by the network.
Writing in the report’s foreword, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová says that “a strong and coherent consumer policy is crucial to reaping the full benefits of the Digital Single Market.” She congratulates ECC-Net on reaching the ten-year milestone and notes that its role in advising and assisting consumers will become “increasingly important.”
Contacts to the network have risen steadily since its inception. In 2005, ECC-Net received 42,795 queries from consumers. This rose to 93,741 by 2014, an increase of some 119%.
20% of all queries submitted to the network in 2014 came via online complaint forms, a figure which underlines the increasing prominence of the digital economy. The websites of the individual ECC-Net centres received a further 3 million hits that year, while the profile of the centre in the media and at major events has continued to grow.
A number of key changes in consumer law have come into effect since the network was established. In particular, the huge surge in e-commerce queries was addressed in the Consumer Rights Directive. This came into effect in June 2014 and provided added protection for consumers where they shop online or purchase digital content.
The introduction of the Eurotariff in 2007 saw roaming charges gradually reduced across the EU with a view to their being abolished entirely. Meanwhile, the emergence of the “FIT” or free independent traveller highlights an increasing move away from package travel – in 2014, more than one-quarter of Europeans made independent travel arrangements using the internet. Taking this into account, the EU has moved to update existing package travel legislation so as to ensure a greater volume of EU travellers are protected.
ECC-Net has been a key figure in shaping consumer policy over the past ten years. As a pan-European organisation which directly engages with consumers, it is in a unique position to report on the issues affecting consumers. Since 2005, reports have been published on topics such as air passenger rights, commercial warranties, fraud in cross-border e-commerce and the availability of chargeback procedures across the EU. These publications have helped to draw attention to a variety of problem areas and ensured that consumers’ concerns were raised at a European level.
The European Consumer Centre in Ireland has assisted almost 36,500 consumers since it joined the network in 2005. In the past five years alone, it has helped to secure refunds for consumers totalling over €500,000. Since its establishment, it has been a frequent commenter on issues of consumer interest in the news. Of the complaints it has handled on behalf of Irish consumers, over 67% related to traders based in the UK. Complaints against Irish traders largely originated in Spain (21%) and the UK (18%). The most common area of complaint was recreation and culture at 33%, closely followed by air travel at 27%.
Speaking at the launch of the report, ECC Ireland Director Ann Neville said “We are delighted to have worked so closely with ECC-Net over the past 10 years, assisting a huge number of consumers and helping to raise awareness of consumer rights throughout Europe.”
For further advice and assistance, contact ECC Ireland on (01) 8797 620.