To strengthen and improve the internal market
Everyone is concerned about consumers, including the EU, of course. "So that markets serve consumers", says the subtitle of the EU consumer barometer. But, it would seem, consumer policy is only a means to an end. And he is already a neoliberal: "Demand for innovation and increased efficiency" of the economy.
The EU’s internal market is not accepted enough by its 500 million people, especially in e-commerce, i.e. electronic mail order, too little is being done, the EU Commission finds. For this reason, consumer complaints in all 27 EU countries will now be uniformly recorded and evaluated by the Commission. Once this is recorded in a uniform way and reported to the Commission, everything will work better, said Briton David Meir (Directorate General SANCO, that is Health and Consumers) recently at an event in Vienna, where the bodies and consumer organizations dealing with consumer complaints should be committed to a uniform electronic complaint form.
With skepticism about internationalized e-commerce and a preference for regional products and places of purchase, consumers are a good deal more sustainable on the road than commission officials are.
Many consumer problems..
Several million consumer complaints are brought to the attention of consumer organizations (in Germany, for example, to the consumer centers) every year in EU Europe. They are only partially covered, both within the countries and Europe-wide. Germany, for example, did not report in time, while Austria reported 485 in 2009.000 consumer complaints, or 58 complaints per thousand inhabitants in.
The consumer barometer
The Consumer Market Scoreboard shows astonishing results for these complaints: In Great Britain, there are comparatively only 14 complaints per thousand inhabitants, in Finland almost as many as in Austria, namely 51, in Poland 18 and in Denmark 1 or Norway 3, in Belgium almost zero per thousand.
Complaints therefore still tell us little about the situation of consumers, because market conditions will change in Austria and the rest of the world. Finland and in Denmark or Norway will not differ significantly. They do not even say anything about a different complaint culture in the countries, because the complaints are not fully recorded. Problems in connection with cars or dwellings often land with motorist and tenant organizations, besides radio, television and newspapers with consumer corners service garnished are on the way. By the way, most people still have a few friends, acquaintances and colleagues who are asked for advice, not to mention the legal profession.
Is questions more accurate?
From another EU survey, the Eurobarometer 342 (Consumer Empowerment, also just published, we now know a little more precisely. 21 percent of consumers across the EU have experienced problems in connection with the purchase of a product or service in the last twelve months. In Germany 21, in austria 17 percent. In Norway, by the way – remember, they had so few complaints – there was a 45 percent.
Those who did not have a problem, or who could not remember it, were asked if they had complained. Yes! 71 percent had complained. 84 percent of the Germans, 73 percent of the Austrians and 86 percent of the Norwegians had made a complaint. Also interesting.
13 percent (Germany), 20 percent (Austria) and 10 percent (Norway) of those who had problems complained to a consumer advice center, especially the older ones go there, and almost 60 percent of them were then satisfied with it in these countries.
The harmonized method
Why does the Commission now want a unified approach to consumer complaints?? To evaluate them, say their representatives. Each individual complaint case should therefore go as a data set to the commission. There is also a program for it, with which the consumer organizations can seize however only at a single place, nothing evaluate itself. An IT implementation itself will cost, in the case of larger consumer organizations that have a few complaint workplaces, let’s say an estimated ten thousand to three thousand euros.
With the Commission’s 50+ page Recommendation of 12.5.2010 "on the use of a harmonized methodology for classifying and reporting consumer complaints and inquiries" introduces this survey. Voluntary, but national ministries will be eager to comply with the Commission’s wishes.
Complicated capture without sense
Classification of consumer problems into the much finer categorization of the Commission’s model will multiply the effort of consultation, after all, the problem is to be translated into monetary terms.
Generally speaking, the number of complaints in individual sectors or problem areas does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the problems as a whole. The volume of complaints depends heavily on media coverage, and those seeking advice turn to different consumer institutions. Only a part ends up in consumer organizations. In addition, consumer problems and problematic industries change over time, and they are also perceived very differently nationally.
A survey of consumer problems by means of a representative, well-designed survey would not be able to provide a complete picture, because the problems that a consumer has, except in the case of significant events, disappear relatively quickly from memory.
This is similar to attempts to analyze consumers’ past purchase decision processes. If these are more than several months old, they usually cannot provide reliable information about the course of events, unless they were decisions that were experienced as very significant.
But it does not matter
Where there is data, it must be collected, even if it costs a lot of time and money and the meaning is not clear.
Don’t worry, however: the consumer and the company are not recorded, for data protection reasons this data does not end up with the Commission. In addition, the polling institutes will continue to receive fat orders and the results will remain on the surface. Opinion researchers are not consumer researchers and the deep problems that people have with their consumption will continue to be buried in the depths. And the electrical industry with its energy-saving lamps is concerned about sustainability.