Shoppers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland face discrimination due to nationality and

in Post

The European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland, in conjunction with the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland, has today [Wednesday, December 14th 2016] launched a new report which found that despite EU legislation designed to prevent discrimination based on nationality and place of residence, some traders restrict consumers’ access to services.

The European Consumer Centre Network’s (ECC-Net) report ‘Do Invisible Borders Still Restrict Consumer Access to Services in the EU?‘ calls for greater clarity on what constitutes discrimination under Article 20.2 and for stronger enforcement when breaches by service providers occur. 

The report found that consumers north and south of the border continue to face artificial barriers and are regularly confronted with refusal to deliver, longer delivery times and often higher prices based on their address. Consumer complaints show that some traders’ restrictions are often unjustified.

Kellin McCloskey, Head of Postal Services at the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland said “Often people cannot access the best offers when shopping online because delivery prices are too high or they are worried about how to claim redress if something goes wrong. Our research has revealed that cost of cross-border parcels, combined with low levels of awareness of statutory rights, may be acting as a barrier to international markets. Less than one in eight consumers in NI shop online outside UK markets[1].”

Press and communications officer for ECC Ireland, Martina Nee, said: “The Services Directive has been an important step in improving the functioning of the Single Market for services. However, consumers too often face restrictions with no justification while the reasons given by traders are unconvincing.”

The report is the result of a joint project to investigate the work of ECC-Net under the Services Directive and the main problems encountered by consumers. ECC Ireland was the project leader, assisted by a working group made up of ECCs Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK.

Report key findings:

Between January 2013 and December 2015, ECC-Net received 532 Article 20.2 related complaints. This represents an increase of 140% in respect of the 222 complaints of this nature reported to ECC-Net between 2010 and 2012.
The largest number of Article 20.2 related complaints originated from consumers based in Austria (138), Italy (68), and Ireland (66).
More than 82% of cases reported related to consumers’ residence rather than nationality and took place mostly in relation to online transactions.
Nearly 68% of complaints were where consumers faced price or service differentiation – mostly with the purchase of goods such as electronic, household appliances, vehicles, clothes, books, music, or data downloads.
Nearly 25% of cases were in relation to the provision of services in the field of tourism and leisure, including those provided by travel agencies, accommodation providers or amusement parks.
More than 5% of cases were in the rental and leasing services sector.
Traders that carried out service and price restrictions/differentiation based on consumers’ nationality or place of residence did so by: Blocking access to websites, automatic re-routing to another website, refusing delivery or payment, or applying different prices or sales conditions.

(UK Retailer – 72%, RoI retailers – 11%, EU Retailers – 13% and International Retailers – 14%)

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