30 October 2012
The report published by the European Consumer Centres Network on 24 October shows that consumers are still facing problems when making purchases online. Of the 31,000 complaints received by the European Consumer Centres Network in 2010-2011, about 56% concerned online purchases. The European Consumer Centre Finland is highlighting issues concerning underage consumers and mobile purchases.
Many underage youngsters already have their own smartphones or they may borrow their parents’ phone or tablet computer for such purposes as playing games online. The European Consumer Centre Finland has received complaints concerning cases where 11-year olds have used their mobile phones for making continuous subscriptions for chargeable services without the knowledge of their parents. The cost of the subscriptions, which in some cases has amounted to more than 1,000 euros, only becomes clear when the credit card invoice or the invoice detailing the use of the mobile phone or the online connection arrives.
Parents should thoroughly discuss the rules of mobile payments and playing games online and the issues concerning responsibilities with their underage children. In principle, underage youngsters may not enter into agreements. However, their parents may still have to pay the invoices if they have provided their children with the account details of the services.
Problems with rules governing distance selling
Most of the problems concerned undelivered or defective products or cases where products did not correspond to what had been ordered. The majority of the complaints concerned sellers in Germany, France, United Kingdom, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
One of the problems reported by the consumers was the fact that the companies do not always adhere to distance selling regulations and do not allow the consumers to exercise their statutory right to return the purchases.
Other issues highlighted in the report were the delivery of specific products to specific countries only, fake online companies and product forgeries.
Despite the complaints and the large number of issues highlighted by consumers, it seems that purchasing goods online is on the increase and that improvements are being made. Making purchases online is easier when you keep the following things in mind:
- Check the details of the seller
- Use only secure payment methods
- Beware of scams
- Do not enter into an agreement/make a purchasing decision unless you know what the undertaking involves
The European Online Marketplace, Consumer Complaints 2010-2011 (pdf).