The 5th EU Consumer Scoreboard was presented on 11 March by the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, at the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC)'s premises.
The biannual Consumer Scoreboard is the statistical evidence report of how markets are delivering to consumers both at EU and at national level, on basis of various performance indicators. The Scoreboard provides figures and alerts about how the single market is performing for EU consumers in terms of choice, prices and satisfaction.
The spring edition ("Consumer Conditions Scoreboard") looks in particular at the integration of the retail market and national conditions for consumers, measured by the Annual Index of Consumer Conditions. This index is defined by factors such as the effectiveness of resolving disputes and handling complaints, the quality of regulations and consumer trust in authorities, retailers, advertisers and consumer organisations.
The Scoreboard data are based on surveys of consumers and retailers, as well as on statistical data such as income levels.
The 2010 spring Consumer Scoreboard shows a clear progress in national consumer conditions in nearly all EU countries after the steep decline in 2009. The 2010 index reveals indeed that consumer conditions have rebounded after the sharp fall in 2009, with most countries matching or exceeding 2008 levels.
The e-commerce gap, major issue highlighted by the Scoreboard
The Scoreboard confirms a growing gap between domestic and cross-border e-commerce, despite a clear potential of cross-border purchases in terms of choice and savings. But the study suggests that consumers are much more confident in cross-border shopping once they have tried it. Consumers' perceptions seem thus to be a major barrier to cross-border shopping on the internet.
The Scoreboard shows continued growth of domestic e-commerce, with 36% of EU consumers having shopped online from national sellers in 2010 (34% in 2009). However, cross-border e-commerce continues to grow at a sluggish pace (9% in 2010, compared with 8% in 2009), despite clear benefits in terms of savings and choice as evidenced in earlier studies.
Among consumers who have not made a cross-border distance purchase:
- 62% are worried about fraud and scams;
- 59% cite concerns about what to do when problems arise;
- 49% are put off by expected delivery problems.
However, these concerns are much less widespread among consumers who have actually shopped cross-border (34%, 30% and 20% respectively).
Cross-border e-commerce appears to be at least as reliable as domestic e-commerce or even more :
- only 16% of cross-border purchases were delayed (18% for domestic purchases);
- the product did not arrive in 5% of cross-border cases (6% for domestic purchases).
The findings suggest a key role for more effective information about existing cross-border advice, enforcement and redress mechanisms. These include the Consumer Protection Co-operation (CPC) network, which brings together national enforcers, and the European Consumer Centres, which provide free help and advice to consumers shopping in the Single Market.
Monique Goyens, BEUC Director General, commented the figures as follows: “Green shoots of rising consumer confidence are evident in the findings, but there are some alarming signs of how well informed European businesses are of their obligations to consumers and there is strong proof that countries with low consumer confidence levels often are a result of unambitious consumer policy, a lack of market supervision and weak enforcement of consumer rights”.
Commissioner John Dalli declared: "It is good news that consumers' worries about cross-border shopping tend to evaporate once they've actually tried it and had a good experience. But the results also confirm how much work there is still ahead of us in dismantling the remaining barriers to the benefit of European economy and European consumers and businesses alike".
The full text of the Scoreboard is available at: