(07/05/2021) Europe Day 2021
European Consumer Centres Network recovers more than 4 million euros for consumers during COVID-19 pandemic
Since March 2020, consumers have even more than before turned to the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) for help with cross-border problems. The network has recovered a total of over 4 million euros since the beginning of the pandemic for consumers whose flights were cancelled, whose hotels were closed or who suffered another COVID-19 related breach of their rights, for example an online purchase that went wrong due to the pandemic.
The ECC-Net helps to get a refund
Not being able to travel is one thing. Losing money is another. The European network helps consumers who cannot find an agreement with the tour operator or any other company based in another EU country, Iceland or Norway.
Especially since the pandemic, it repeatedly happens that travellers have the lawful right to get a refund, but only receive a partial amount or nothing at all. Or they are offered a voucher when in fact they are entitled to an immediate refund. Consumers buying online complain about delayed or even non-delivery of their order. This is exactly where the network comes in. In almost 70 % of the disputes it received, it has been able to achieve a positive and out-of-court solution for the consumer.
ECC-Net COVID-19 year in figures
Between March 2020 and March 2021, the network received 170,000 enquiries from consumers across Europe whose consumer rights had been infringed or who had a question about European consumer law.
This is 44 % more than in the same period the year before. The vast majority of enquiries related to the tourism sector: cancelled flights, consumers who did not want to or could not travel due to the pandemic, closed accommodation or cancelled package holidays.
ECC Belgium handled a record number of questions and complaints
The Belgian European Consumer Centre (ECC) received 19,540 requests in 2020. This is an absolute record in its 15-years of existence. A significant increase of 51% compared to 2019. 72% of the questions and complaints concern online purchases, the majority of which are from web shops located in neighbouring countries.
A true story
Mrs. G.R. makes a stopover at Brussels Airport on the 15th of September 2020 and needs to submit a negative PCR test before boarding the next flight. Because time is limited, she wants to do a rapid test, but in the end a standard test is taken for which she pays 67 euros. Unfortunately, the test result is delayed, so she misses her flight and has to buy a new ticket for a later flight. Price: 24.17 euros. Afterwards it turns out that the test centre charges her twice for the test. Mrs. G.R. requests the reimbursement of the two tests and the new airline ticket. After the intervention of ECC-Net, she receives a compensation of 91.17 euros for the overcharged test and the new flight ticket. The test itself is not refundable because the lab had 24 hours to provide the test results.
About ECC Belgium
The European Consumer Centre (ECC) Belgium offers free help and advice to consumers before and after they make a purchase in another EU member state. Together with colleagues across its European network, it aims to find an amicable solution for issues with a foreign trader, because consumer rights don’t stop at the border. The Belgian office, staffed by 8 people, is based in Brussels. The European network comprises 30 consumer centres: one in every EU member state, one in Norway and one in Iceland. This so-called ECC-Net was established in 2005 by the European Commission in conjunction with the EU member states in order to bolster consumer confidence in the internal market.
This press release was funded by the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020). This project is co-funded by OIPC, a non-profit organization from Test Achats, and the FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy.
The content of this press release represents the views of the European Consumer Centre Belgium 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 (CHAFEA) and/or its successor the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA) 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.