Air travel problems – cancelled and delayed flights in particular – continue to plague travellers. The European Consumer Centre (ECC) Finland received hundreds of complaints about these issues in 2017. The only issue causing more problems than flight was subscription traps; however, they resulted in fewer complaints than in the previous year.
The ECC Finland helps consumers on issues with companies operating in another EU Member State, Norway or Iceland. This means complaints concerning foreign companies.
The total number of complaints decreased thanks to a centralised operating model
The ECC Finland’s 13th year of operation had a lighter workload than the previous year, in terms of contacts received. In total, 3720 complaints were recorded in the ECC database in 2017 in Finland. The number of contacts decreased by 12%, compared to the previous year.
This is a result of directing the customers to the national Consumer Advisory Service whenever possible, even in cross-border issues. The Consumer Advisory Service gives customers the basic advice they may need in order to file a complaint, as well as an estimate on whether the issues should be further clarified with the other party. In that case, the Consumer Rights Adviser guides the customer to the ECC Finland. Naturally, a consumer may also independently contact the ECC Finland directly.
€100,000 returned to Finnish consumers
The ECC Finland aims to repatriate consumers’ claims via mediation concerning purchases in cross-border trade. The mediation takes advantage of the European Consumer Centres in the other EU countries, Norway and Iceland. In 2017, we repatriated approximately €100,000 in value for Finnish consumers, with regard to these claims. The amount was approximately €5,000 less than in 2016.
The aim is to only direct those disputes that require mediation to the ECC Finland. This goal has not been reached yet. In 2017, roughly 80% of the complaints were resolved by providing information or instructions, or by informing the consumers that their demands were either not based on law or that they, the consumer, did not have sufficient proof to support their demand.
Flight issues cause work
The issues that created the most work for the ECC Finland’s staff, in 2017, involved delayed and cancelled flights. There were 674 complaints received on these issues (595 in 2016). The processing times of flight-related complaints, alone, are long; consumers may need to wait up to 10 weeks for the airline’s response to their complaint. Once the case is finally processed by the ECC, various accounts, flight tickets and letters of attorney are needed. When mediation begins, it may take months for the airline to reply.
If the airline’s response is negative, the case must be sent for further processing by the supervisory authority in the member state, where the problem occurred. Some supervisory authorities process claims by individual consumers, while others monitor the airline’s actions based on complaints, and if the airline refuses to pay consumers their receivables based on law, they use the sanctions permitted by the legislation of their own country.
Only a few complaints from other countries
There were 68 complaints, concerning Finnish companies by other EU countries, brought in for mediation. Many of those, too, involved flight issues. The number was the second lowest of all EU countries; only the ECC Slovenia received fewer complaints than we at the ECC Finland.
Complaints concerning purchases from Chinese online stores have clearly increased. The cases show that consumers rarely realise that they have purchased items from China. We received 103 complaints in 2017, while in 2016 the number was 53.
There were 136 complaints about domestic companies, and they were transferred for processing by the national Consumer Advisory Service.
Mainly positive feedback – backed by a strong network and the support of the European Commission
Our customer feedback in 2017 has been largely positive. Consumers may be disappointed by the end result of the mediation, but our service has received excellent scores. This is all thanks to our experienced and expert staff.
The task of the ECC Network is to increase consumer confidence in a single market and especially cross-border trade. We manage this task through communication, responding to queries and complaints from consumers, and if necessary, mediating individual disputes involving cross-border trade. We operate as a network so that the mediation cases are managed in cooperation with ECC offices (ECC-Net) in other EU countries.
Consumer contacts are recorded in our database, through which the Commission receives comprehensive information about problems in cross-border trade discovered in each member state. In addition, the database helps the ECC Finland keep the Consumer Ombudsman informed about problematic companies that the supervisory authority should be aware of when considering control measures. Because the ECC-Net uses the only case management system focused on the problems of cross-border trade, we are also responsible for matters with some aspect of cross-border trade at the public hearings of the Commission on Consumer Protection.
Our service is free for consumers, being funded by the State of Finland and the European Commission.
European Consumer Centre Finland’s statistics
Contacts in 2017 and 2016 (complaints and queries)