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Getting help

"Who can help me if I think I've been cheated?"

Maria, who lives in Portugal, responded to a direct mail letter advertising natural, plant-based cosmetics. The letter claimed that by applying their Dead Sea Salt Rub for just 2 weeks she could completely eliminate the wrinkles from her face. The French company claimed that their secret formula had been tested and approved by an official-sounding French laboratory. Maria ordered the product but after using it for four weeks she still had as many wrinkles as before. Realising that she had been misled, Maria checked on the Internet and discovered that the French laboratory didn't exist. She tried calling the company to demand her money back but no one answered the phone and no one responded to her emails either.

Finally in frustration Maria turned for help to the European Consumer Centre (ECC) in Portugal. The Portuguese ECC liaised with the French office of ECC Net, which was able to go straight to the trader and reported the practice to the French authority in charge of consumer protection. The trader was fined and obliged to stop its misleading advertisements.

Dispute resolution

If you feel you have been the victim of an unfair commercial practice, do not despair! There are a number of options you can take for advice or help.

Step 1

Seek advice

The first step is to confirm that your complaint is valid according to the law and that you have been a victim of an unfair commercial practice. It's best to contact your national consumer association or one of the advice centres of the ECC-Net to get their advice.

1. National consumer associations in your country are usually aware of the rogue traders active in your area/country. They can advise you on domestic problems.

You can find national consumer organisations here

2. The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net)

This network of consumer advice centres helps consumers specifically with cross-border disputes. It was set up in January 2005 by the European Commission in cooperation with the national authorities. The centres provide information and give advice and assistance to consumers with their complaints and the resolution of disputes.

Further information: European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net)

Step 2

File a complaint

3. If your consumer association or ECC-Net advice centre confirms that it is appropriate to file a complaint, below is the link to the list of competent authorities. Your national consumer protection authorities are entitled to decide on complaints or to initiate appropriate legal proceedings. Based on your national laws, these authorities or the courts can order the cessation of the unfair commercial practices.

Further information: National consumer associations (click on the flag of your country)

Some useful links: