Data on consumer complaints
While goods and services offered across the EU are quite similar, differences in consumer experiences remain significant. Dissatisfied consumers can complain directly to national authorities and third-party organisations in all EU countries, which collect and analyse their complaints.
The value of harmonising complaint classifications at EU level is considerable, whether for EU and national regulators, consumer organisations or EU consumers themselves. As harmonised data will be directly comparable across the EU, this should allow for a faster, better targeted, evidence-based policy response at the EU or the national level to real problems experienced by consumers. National authorities and regulators should be able to respond better to emerging trends, thanks to a more complete picture of their own markets, and easier comparisons with other countries. Therefore, in 2010 European Commission issued a relevant Recommendation , introducing a harmonised methodology for classifying and reporting consumer complaints.
The Recommendation is addressed to all third-party complaint bodies (national authorities, consumer organisations ADR bodies, etc.) and calls on them to classify complaints according to a common taxonomy and to report the data to the Commission. The system does not cover consumer complaint handling mechanisms operated by traders.
The implementation of the Complaints Recommendation is monitored and supported by the CIRCABC Consumer Complaints Expert Group.
The objective of the EU financial support (grants) is the establishment or improvement of IT systems enabling the transmission of harmonised data concerning consumer complaints to the Commission as well as the transmission of all harmonised data concerning consumer complaints being in the possession of the complaint body concerned to the Commission.The EU contribution can cover costs of staff, IT equipment, training and promotional events, necessary for carrying out this activity.
In 2011 the European Commission made available € 205 000 for this purpose.
In 2014 the European Commission made available € 300 000 for this purpose.
In order to ensure the wide implementation of the Recommendation the Commission has developed a two-level approach, depending on the complaint bodies' profiles:
- Organisations that do not have a specific data collection IT system in place are invited to use the European Consumer Registration System IT Tool. The IT Tool is provided free of charge to complaint bodies that are willing to adopt the methodology and to provide data to the Commission. This software contains a standardised form for reporting complaints.
- Organisations with existing data collection IT systems are invited to apply the harmonised methodology to their local IT systems and to adapt them accordingly. To this end, the Commission has developed technical specifications to facilitate the adaptation of the systems and the transfer of data to the Commission according to the harmonised methodology. The Commission is providing technical support including onsite hands-on sessions for interested organisations.
Further details are available on the collaborative workspace portal for partners of the CIRCABC Consumer Complaints Expert Group.
Aggregated data from the harmonised complaints database are disseminated through a user-friendly database (extractions can be saved in spreadsheet format). To access those data please click here.