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The network of European Consumer Centres in Europe : Free help and advice for consumers
The European Consumer Centres network (ECC-Net) was created by the European Commission in 2005. There is one European Consumer Centre in each member state of the European Union as well as in Norway and Iceland, that is 30 ECCs in total. They offer free assistance and advice to consumers.
The network definitely aims at more trust of the consumers in the internal market: Providing free information and assistance to consumers in cases of cross-border conflicts should create incentives to take advantage of the new opportunities offered by the European market.
The ECC-Net enables all ECCs to collaborate in order to settle disputes between consumers and companies based in other EU countries, Iceland and Norway. Besides this conflict-solving mission, the ECCs of the ECC-Net work together on common projects for consumers (for instance: travelling by car in Europe, comparative study on 3-star hotels…). Moreover, the ECC-Net forwards any requests of European consumerson potential dysfunctions of the internal market to national and European authorities. To this purpose, annual reports on various topics like e-commerce or the rights of air passengers are published.
Find the list of all European Consumer Centres.
Your contact partner in Germany: The European Consumer Center Germany
“Does the country in which I am buying a product follow the same legislation as my home country? Can I reach an agreement with the seller in case of problems with the product? Are the risks bigger when purchasing abroad?”
- Inform and advise consumers on their rights in Europe
- Settle cross-border consumption-related disputes
- Encourage conciliation rather than trial
- Analyse the European market and forward consumers’ requests to the European Commission as well as to national and European authorities
- Be a contact point for consumers who wish to receive information on services in other countries of the European Union.
You are willing to hire a craftsperson in another European country and you have questions on the applicable legislation? A foreign company refuses to deliver its services because it is based in another country than your country of residence?
The ECC Germany also helps consumers out in their choice and dispute with European service suppliers. It thus belongs to the European network of contact points.
The service directive aims at further liberalising the European market of services, namely by strengthening the rights of service recipients (both companies or consumers). The latter objective is promoted by article 21 of the directive by providing obligation of assistance to service recipients.
Currently, many consumers still hesitate to pay for foreign services due to the lack of knowledge on the legislation under which service suppliers of other Member States operate. Consumers thus encounter difficulties to compare offers and to choose their service suppliers according to relevant criteria. The obligation of assistance accorded by article 21 supports the strengthening of consumer trust by enabling them to make an informed choice and comparisons when considering cross-border transactions.
The ECC Germany provides general information about:
- the applicable regulation to companies in other Members States
- reviewing options and contact details of organisations that can assist you in case of a dispute with a company based in another country
It may concern information related to various sectors (tourism, car rental, construction...) about:
- the required authorisations and subscriptions
- the appropriate professional insurances required
- the principle of geographical non-discrimination (exclusivity contracts, delivery restrictions)
One address, two countries
Both the ECC Germany and the ECC France provide services in cooperation with the Centre for Consumer Protection in Europe, an association dedicated to Franco-German consumption-related issues since 1993 and located in the urban area of Strasbourg and Kehl.
Elected by the states of Germany and France with the objective of protecting consumers in Europe, this centre based in Kehl is the only “binational structure in the European network” among the European Consumer Centres. Today, the ECCs of Germany and France are the largest consumer centres in Europe and are involved in more than 50% of the resolved disputes within the network.
Network of European partners
The CPC gives wide ranging powers to enforcement bodies in the EU and will enable them to better work together to take coordinated action against traders acting illegally. Systems have been put in place that will allow each of these authorities to call on other members of the network for help in investigations to stop rogue traders. Where the enforcement authorities have a reasonable suspicion of a cross-border infringement or breach, they now have the right: to access relevant documentation and information related to the infringement; to carry out on-site inspections; to request the seller or supplier to cease the infringement; and to require losing defendants to make payments into the public purse or to a designated beneficiary if they fail to comply with the decision. Enforcement bodies will also have the power to take court action if necessary.
The European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters (EJN-civil) is a flexible, non-bureaucratic structure, which operates in an informal mode and aims at simplifying judicial cooperation between the Member States. It gives unofficial support to the central authorities as stipulated in their instruments, and facilitates relations between different courts.
The creation of the EJN comes from the idea that the gradual establishment of a genuine area of justice in Europe entails the need to improve, simplify and expedite effective judicial cooperation between the Member States in civil and commercial matters. The Network also represents an original and practical response to the objectives for access to justice and judicial cooperation set by the Tampere (Finland) European Council in 1999. The EJN therefore provides valuable access to justice for persons engaged in cross-border litigation.
The activities of the Network are designed with the intention of promoting smooth operating procedures where the impacts cross borders and facilitating requests for judicial cooperation between Member States, in particular when no Community or international instrument is applicable.
In other words, the Network makes it easier to conduct cases with cross-border connections, to facilitate requests for judicial cooperation between Member States (e.g. to provide assistance with the service of documents or the taking of evidence), and to ensure that Community legislation and conventions between Member States are properly applied in practice.
FIN-NET is a financial dispute resolution network of national out-of-court complaint schemes in the European Economic Area countries (the European Union Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) that are responsible for handling disputes between consumers and financial services providers, i.e. banks, insurance companies, investment firms and others. This network was launched by the European Commission in 2001.
Within FIN-NET, the schemes cooperate to provide consumers with easy access to out-of-court complaint procedures in cross-border cases. If a consumer in one country has a dispute with a financial services provider from another country, FIN-NET members will put the consumer in touch with the relevant out-of court complaint scheme and provide the necessary information about it.
Read more on page How to use FIN-NET.
The ECC France cooperates with the FIN-NET network to find amicable resolutions on disputes concerning financial services.
You don't know where to start when looking for international partners? Don't have the resources to apply for EU funding? Have no idea who could finance your business? The Enterprise Europe Network is there to help.
Their experts can help you find international business partners, source new technologies and receive EU funding or finance. And they can advise you on issues so diverse as intellectual property, going international, or EU law and standards.
The Solvit network is a body funded by the European Commission to assist citizens to ascertain their EU rights in cases where a dispute has risen between a citizen and an official body of a Member state of the European Union. There is a Solvit centre in every member state (as well as in the EEA Member States Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).
SOLVIT deals with cross-border problems between a business or a citizen on the one hand and a national public authority on the other, where there is possible misapplication of EU law. The policy areas SOLVIT has mostly dealt with so far are:
- Recognition of professional qualifications and diplomas
- Access to education
- Residence permits
- Voting rights
- Social security
- Employment rights
- Driving licences
- Motor vehicle registration
- Border controls
- Market access for products
- Market access for services
- Establishment as self-employed
- Public procurement
- Free movement of capital or payments
Europe Direct information relays acts as an interface between EU and its citizens at a local level. Europe Direct (which took its name from an earlier initiative) was launched in 2005. Members of the Europe Direct network both offer and promote EU information to the general public in their area, whilst a central enquiry point offers a wide-ranging information service via telephone and e-mail. There is a network of around 500 Europe Directs based locally across the 28 Member States as well as a Europe Direct Contact Centre. You can speak to the Contact Centre by calling a free phone number from anywhere in the European Union or by emailing them.
The Rapid Alert System enables quick exchange of information between 31 European countries and the European Commission about dangerous non-food products posing a risk to health and safety of consumers.
Every day the European Commission receives from national authorities information about dangerous products found and the measures taken. The information may come from producers or distributors who voluntarily organise recalls of the products they found posed a risk to consumers health. A list of dangerous products describing the risk they pose and the measures taken is published every week on the web. Other countries may find the same product in their national markets and add extra information and more measures to prevent the further selling of the dangerous product. All this information is circulated inside the network.
The ECC Germany is financed by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (Germany), following a decision of the German Parliament, as well as the European Commission.