The impact of coronavirus on consumers

Since the start of the pandemic, the centres have seen a huge spike in complaints, with 50% more enquiries than usual.

On the health front, advisors in the centres have been warning consumers about fraudulent pharmaceutical products, fake protective masks and sanitisers and other scams related to COVID-19.

During summer, the majority of coronavirus-related queries concerned flights, accommodation, and package holidays. Advisors have been working hard to make sure consumers know their rights and are treated fairly.

Shopping street, European Union, 2020

Shoppers in Brussels, Belgium © European Union, 2020

Greater EU protection for the future

But the EU’s commitment to consumer rights goes beyond travel. With its new consumer agenda, there are other measures for the post-coronavirus reality. For those who love a little retail therapy, there will be greater EU protection available for online shopping, such as the removal of sites and social media accounts promoting scams or hidden advertising. And for those looking to go more green, the EU will be providing more information on how to have products repaired rather than having to buy new ones.

The agenda sets out a long-term vision up to 2025 to protect European consumers and empower them to play an active role in the green and digital transition. The EU will work with countries to coordinate rights to protection, address the needs of different consumer groups, such as the elderly or those with a disability, and provide high-level consumer protection to Europeans purchasing from sellers based outside the Union.

Help during the coronavirus crisis

Here’s what Europeans have to say about the assistance they received from European Consumer Centres during the coronavirus crisis.

Martin Faulhaber from Kehl, Germany

Martin Faulhaber -- © ECC Germany, 2020

Martin Faulhaber © ECC Germany/photographer Susan Hoos, 2020

“I had to cancel my train trip to Spain due to the pandemic. I had booked via the French SNCF, which only wanted to refund part of the ticket price. So I contacted the ECC Germany and they helped me get the full amount back! It is not the first time that the ECC Germany was able to help me free of charge, quickly and efficiently. A big thank you to the team!”

Florence Lenfant from St-Amand-les-Eaux, France

© Florence Lenfant, 2020

© Florence Lenfant, 2020

“I reserved a place in a car park at Brussels airport because I was leaving on a trip from 27-30 March. My flight was cancelled because of COVID-19 and the airport was also closed at the end of March. I contacted the Luxembourg company Allopark to get a refund for the reserved parking, but I never got an answer. I then contacted the ECC France for assistance. My request was quickly taken care of and I was regularly informed of the progress of my file. In cooperation with their counterparts in Luxembourg, the ECC succeeded in obtaining a credit note for the amount of my booking valid for 1 year. I am very satisfied and thank the ECC for their action!”

Miroslav Krekáč from Řež, Czechia

© Miroslav Krekáč, 2020

© Miroslav Krekáč, 2020

“On 11 March, 2020, I bought return flight tickets from Krakow to Los Angeles with transfer in Warsaw, all flights operated by a Polish air carrier. I should have flown to the US on 31 March and return on 11 April. The airline company cancelled the flight on 12 March. I wasn‘t informed of the flight cancellation and found the information on the trader‘s website. The next day I asked for the refund. I tried to call and write to them, but no reply. In April, the trader made refunds available for all customers online – so I also filled in that e-form, but with no result or exact information when they would reimburse the amount. I was helpless for almost three months. However, two weeks after I had contacted the ECC Czechia, I received the full refund of €494 (CZK 12,562) to my card. I am extremely grateful to the Czech centre and the Polish centre who contacted the trader for their fast and free-of-charge help. Here we can see the great benefit of the European Union for ordinary citizens. Once again, thank you very much for what you do!”

Svetoslav Genov from Burgas, Bulgaria

© Svetoslav Genov, 2020

© Svetoslav Genov, 2020

“I highly recommend ECC Bulgaria (ECC-Net). During the COVID-19 crisis, they helped me to solve a rather unusual and complicated case with an online travel agency and a Spanish hotel. Their expert was very professional and went to great lengths to solve the issue, together with the colleagues from Spain and the Netherlands. I'm very satisfied with the outcome, we were able to rebook for another period, without losing our money - almost €800. ECC Bulgaria, you were really helpful, especially because both the hotel and the platform were refusing any assistance. Keep up the good work, I'm sure you will help a lot of other people!”

Brian Lund from Herning, Denmark

© Brian Lund, 2020

© Brian Lund, 2020

“In December 2019, I bought tickets including dinner for the TV Tower in Berlin on 27 March 2020. When the Corona lockdown became a reality, the TV Tower canceled my reservation and offered a voucher or refund. I replied that I opted for the refund, but in spite of that, I received a voucher 14 days after. As the TV Tower proved to be difficult to reach, I turned to the ECC Denmark and provided the documentation. A short while after, I received an e-mail asking me to return the voucher, and I received the refund. Thank you for your help.”