Shopping online offers Europe’s 500 million consumers incredible choice, value, and convenience. However, it is clear from the latest European Consumer Centre network report that there are persistent problems in this area which need to be addressed.
The report analyses 10,386 consumer complaints relating to online purchases, reported to 27 states across the European Consumer Centre network during 2007. It can be seen that delivery of goods is a major problem, with 50% of complaints relating to this area, while 25% concerned problems with the product or service itself. Reports of poor customer service, and a tendency among traders to offload blame for delivery problems to the relevant postal/courier service are also problematic.
Complaints about electronic goods are particularly common. While the great selection and value available online for electronic goods is very attractive, consumers do face a number of specific difficulties in this area. Some companies appear unwilling to sell into other countries because of a seeming lack of clarity around their equipment disposal obligations under the WEE Directive*. Others delay any necessary repairs/replacements for long periods; a serious consideration in a sector where product innovation is constant. The report also shows that the online purchase of cars and tickets for events can be problematic.
Fraud is also a growing issue, with several different ‘varieties’ reported to the ECC network, including fake web-traders, (again, frequently selling electronic equipment), and various scams concerning the purchase and sale of second-hand cars.
Consumer law in this area is currently being reviewed, and it is felt that with the rapid growth in new technologies, current legislation and current enforcement practices need to be strengthened. Traders must recognise their obligations under law, while consumers should need to be aware of their rights, as well as necessary precautions, when shopping online. ECC Ireland advises consumers to check their website, www.eccireland.ie for information and advice on online shopping in another European state.