European Scrutiny Committee Contents


25 The single market: the spring 2010 consumer scoreboard

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8202/10

SEC(10) 385

Commission staff working document: Consumers at home in the Internal Market. Monitoring the integration of the retail Internal market and benchmarking the consumer environment in Member States

Legal base
Document originated29 March 2010
Deposited in Parliament7 April 2010
DepartmentBusiness, Innovation and Skills
Basis of considerationEM of 26 May 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared

Background

25.1 In January 2008, the Commission issued a Communication announcing its intention to publish "consumer scoreboards" based on indicators which would help identify which parts of the internal market are not functioning well for consumers.[104]

25.2 The Commission's first Consumer Markets Scoreboard was published in January 2008 and the second a year later.[105] In future, the Commission will publish two scoreboards a year: one in spring and the other in the autumn.

The spring 2010 Scoreboard

25.3 The spring 2010 Scoreboard has three chapters:

  • an introduction and executive summary;
  • a chapter (and supporting statistics) on progress towards an EU-wide single retail market; and
  • a chapter (and supporting statistics) on the extent to which consumers in each Member State are satisfied with their national arrangements for the handling of complaints; rights of redress; enforcement of consumer protection legislation; and product safety.

25.4 The Scoreboard shows that there has been little growth in the proportion of consumers and retailers conducting cross-border transactions. For example:

  • in 2009, 29% of EU consumers made at least one cross-border purchase — the corresponding figure for 2008 was 25% and for 2006 it was 26%;
  • 25% of EU retailers sold to at least one customer in another EU country in 2009, compared to 20% in 2008 and 29% in 2006;
  • in 2009, 34% of EU consumers bought goods or services online from suppliers in their home Member States, but only 8% placed cross-border orders online; and
  • many online suppliers are not prepared to sell to consumers in other Member States.

However, in the UK 32% of consumers made at least one cross-border online purchase in 2009 and 25% of UK retailers made at least one online sale to a customer in another EU country.

25.5 The Scoreboard's statistics on consumer satisfaction in the UK indicate that, for example:

  • 78% of consumers feel adequately protected by existing consumer protection measures (the highest proportion in the EU);
  • 78% of consumers trust suppliers to respect their consumer rights (the highest proportion in the EU);
  • 70% of consumers trust public authorities to protect their consumer rights (fourth highest in the EU);
  • the UK has the highest switching rate in the EU (for example, 33% of consumers have changed their electricity service provider); and
  • only 8.9% of UK consumers, and 5.1% of UK retailers, believe that a significant number of products are unsafe (the EU 27 average is 24.8% of consumers and 16.3% of retailers).

25.6 The Scoreboard's main conclusions are that:

  • most consumers in the EU still buy the goods and services they require from suppliers located in their home Member State;
  • in order to gain the benefits of a true EU-wide internal retail market, sustained effort is required to break down the barriers to cross-border retail purchasing and, in particular, obstacles to the development of e-commerce across national borders; and
  • there are substantial differences in customer satisfaction across the EU and Member States should do more to identify and remove the causes of dissatisfaction.

The Government's view

25.7 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 26 May, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Edward Davey) tells us that the spring 2010 Scoreboard has no direct policy implications for the UK.

25.8 The statistics in the Scoreboard show that the UK has been performing well in the retail market. In particular, the data on the proportion of consumers who feel adequately protected by existing measures and who trust in the ability of third parties to protect the rights of consumer are very encouraging. But there remains room for improvement. For example, UK retailers were less well informed than consumers about consumer rights and the procedures for complaints and redress. In autumn 2009, the previous Government made resources available to help retail businesses provide training for their staff to improve their understanding of consumer rights. It is too soon, however, to say to what extent this has improved retailers' awareness of consumer protection legislation.

Conclusion

25.9 In our view, the spring 2010 Scoreboard contains useful indicators for the Commission and Member States about the further action needed to develop the internal market and improve consumer satisfaction. It makes no proposals and is for information and we see no need to keep it under scrutiny. We draw the document to the attention of the House because of the importance of the subject and the useful comparative data the scoreboard contains.





104   (29422) 5942/08: see HC 16-xiv (2007-08), chapter 7 (5 March 2008). Back

105   (30420) 6066/09: see HC 19-viii (2008-09), chapter 10 (25 February 2009) Back


 
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