Flights and online shopping problems top the list of consumer contacts

The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which specialises in resolving cross-border consumer problems in the EU, received more than 124,000 contacts from consumers in 2023. As in previous years, the main issues raised were problems with air travel and online shopping. The European Consumer Centre Finland (ECC Finland) received 2,502 contacts from consumers living in Finland last year. Of these, 1,857 were enquiries about consumer rights in different situations, and 645 were complaints that were mediated with traders abroad through the ECC-Net. We also handled 199 cases in Finland involving Finnish companies where the consumer lived in another EU country, Norway, Iceland or the UK.

The number of new contacts received by the ECC Finland fell by 16.2% for Finnish consumers compared to the previous year but, on the other hand, Finland received 15.7% more cases for mediation from other EU countries than in 2022.

What topics and companies from which countries were the most complained about in Finland?

The questions most frequently asked by consumers concerned their rights as an air passenger (20%) or as an online shopper. Inquiries about e-commerce were about various products and services bought online (17%). There was also a particular emphasis on mobile phone accessories (5%), the purchase and rental of cars and the purchase of their spare parts (5%).

The most frequent complaints that led to mediation were for incorrectly delivered or otherwise defective products (18%), flight cancellation (16%), non-delivery (15%), flight delay (11%) and use of the right of withdrawal (7%).

As in previous years, traders mentioned most by Finnish consumers were most often located in Germany (14%). The next most consumer contacts made were about Swedish and Dutch companies (9% for each). These contacts included national airlines and airline intermediaries, as well as various online stores. In the Netherlands in particular, we also saw online retailers operating on the dropshipping principle, often with Finnish-language websites, large discounts and attractive advertising on social media – with products delivered from China to the surprise of consumers. In fact, the share of contacts about the Netherlands has been slowly increasing in recent years.

Estonia remained near the top of the list with 7% of contacts. Contacts about Estonia are related to various online retailers and also to some extent to tourism. Among the Baltic countries, Latvia was on the rise, accumulating 5% of last year’s contacts. The Latvian figure is mainly driven by Datatech SIA, a provider of car valuation services. Its and services have attracted a large number of contacts from Finnish consumers. In December last year, we published instructions that consumers can still use in the event of disputes over car valuation services.

Information on problems encountered by Finnish consumers in cross-border trade has also been shared with the Consumer Ombudsman, which monitors compliance with consumer protection legislation in Finland.  Many traders established abroad offer their products in Finnish-language online shops, which means that they are also subject to the Consumer Ombudsman’s supervision.

Towards a smoother internal market and amicable settlement

The ECC -Net aims to increase consumer confidence in shopping in the single market and to provide advice and assistance in cross-border trade problems. The ECC Finland received EUR 506,160 in refunds to consumers during 2023 through mediation, while the ECC-Net as a whole received EUR 8.87 million.

In the complaint cases that went to mediation, we reached a full settlement in 48% of the cases where the counterparty was located abroad, and a partial settlement in 13% of the cases. In addition, in 5% of cases, the parties reached an agreement during the mediation procedure. The main obstacle to successful mediation was the failure to reach the company – in 7% of cases where the counterparty was abroad, the company could not be reached and mediation could not be carried out.

A full settlement was reached in 58% of the cases involving a foreign consumer and a Finnish trader. A further 11% of cases ended in a partial settlement