The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC) is a European network supported by the European Commission, Member States, Norway and Iceland. It consists of 29 centers, with at least one center in each of the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU), plus Iceland and Norway. They work together to provide consumers with information on cross-border purchases of goods and services. In addition, they provide assistance to consumers through amicable settlement of border disputes and other mediation procedures.
Consumer policy conducted by the European Commission aims to provide a better and more complete information to consumers , promote purchases within the EU and make consumers aware of their rights. Private consumption accounts for 60 % of GDP (gross domestic product ), but only one in five consumers know that the same basic consumer rights apply in each of the EU Member States , only a third of the European population is aware that the safety of products purchased in Europe is guaranteed within the EU.
Although the main consumer rights are the same across Europe, significant differences exist between the laws of the Member States. These legal differences are confusing to consumers who may be subject to different treatment of a Member State to another . The lack of consumer confidence on the protection of their rights in another European country seems to be the strongest barrier to cross-border consumption and this explains why only 12 % of people make purchases outside their country of residence. In addition , the majority of cross-border purchases are made during vacation. Through the ECC-Net , the European Commission wants to strengthen consumer confidence and the effectiveness of consumer legislation.
To assist consumers , the network of European Consumer Centres has the following objectives :
- Provide information to consumers to enable them to purchase goods and services in the internal market is fully aware of their rights and duties.
- Respond directly to inquiries from consumers or other parties.
- In case of complaint , assist and support consumers in their dealings / contacts with professional based in a Member State other than their own.
- If necessary, help consumers find a mediation body .
The CEC also develop an efficient and effective cooperation with the National Institutes of mediation and they support the national authorities in the promotion and development of new procedures for mediation. In addition, CEC collect and analyze information from consumer demands for statistical purposes and for the development of future policies consumption. They carry out cross-country comparisons on legislation and other issues of interest to consumers on a wide range of topics. These reports are forwarded to policy makers and enforcement authorities . The network cooperates with all other European networks such as FIN- NET (Finance), Solvit (internal market) , Enterprise Europe Network, Europe Direct, the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters.
Consumers who do not find a solution to their claim with a professional in another EU Member State or in Iceland and Norway, can contact the CEC in their country of residence for the help. Consumers can ask for help to CEC by phone, fax or email , or by physically visiting the premises of some centers. The CEC contacted translate the documents , if needed, and submit them to CEC of the trader who will try to find an amicable solution to the dispute through mediation one competent professional or by contacting them directly. The CEC can not force the trader to act .
2008: the network had over 62,000 requests from citizens in 2008. 54% of them were complaints and the rest of the requests for information. In 2008 , consumers have focused complaint about transport services ( 33.23 %) , recreation services and culture ( 25.42 %) and catering services, hotel and lodging ( 13.38 %). These three sectors have generated 72% of all complaints received by the network.
2007: the network has received 55,000 requests from consumers in 2007. The majority of complaints tackled by ECCs for the terms of a contract ( 25%) , service or product ( 22.4%) and delivery (20 %). 22% of complaints registered by the CEC relate to transport services and in particular the rights of air passengers , followed by leisure and cultural services ( nearly 12 %) and audiovisual services ( nearly 10 %). More than half of the complaints concerning online transactions (55%).
Translated and adapted from Wikipedia.