The FCCA maintains the European Consumer Centre the task of which is to increase consumer confidence in a single market and especially cross-border trade. The Centre is part of the network of European Consumer Centres and is funded jointly by the European Commission and Member States.
Its tasks are managed through communication, responding to queries and complaints from consumers, and, if necessary, mediating individual disputes. The European Consumer Centres operate as a network so that the mediation cases are managed in cooperation with contact points in other EU countries. The network has a common database through which the Commission receives comprehensive information on any problems arising in cross-border trade in the Member States. The expertise of the European Consumer Centres are also utilised in all the Commission’s public hearings with cross-border trade aspects.
The European Consumer Centre is part of the consumer administration’s One-Stop Shop service model, where customers are directed to first contact the national Consumer Advisory Service Helpline. The model enables basic advisory matters to be handled more quickly and the most difficult disputes requiring mediation to be directed to the European Consumer Centre. By enhancing this operating model, the increase in the number of cases processed by the European Consumer Centre, which had been continuing for several years, was curbed during 2017. Despite this, there were considerably more contacts than two years earlier.
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The most common topics of the contacts concerned subscription traps, air travel, and leisure-time goods and services.
The European Consumer Centre communicated to consumers regularly about its main themes, travel and online shopping, through its website, bulletins, newsletter and social media channels (Twitter, Facebook). The bankruptcy of the Air Berlin airline was the hot topic of the latter half of the year. Instructions were issued to consumers several times, and the subject was prominent in the media as well.
In 2017, the European Consumer Centres in the Nordic countries continued their joint communication campaigns regarding issues such as subscription traps and car rentals. The campaigns involved joint press releases, social media posts and reports. An animated video about subscription traps was also published.
In addition, the European Consumer Centres in Sweden, Norway and Denmark followed the example set by Finland in previous years and created a joint social media Christmas calendar, which provided consumers with practical tips on Twitter and Facebook.
The European Consumer Centre published two videos of its own on its YouTube channel. The videos dealt with the cancellation of flights due to a strike and cancelling online purchases. Information on passenger rights was also distributed at Helsinki Airport and the Tallinn ferries.
The European Consumer Centre is also the national contact point for the online dispute resolution forum ODR, providing advice to consumers and companies on the use of the ODR service. The forum is intended as a service to help consumers independently direct their dispute to an external dispute resolution organ. The service is not widely known or used yet. The service was launched in 2016 and, by the end of 2017, 235 Finnish consumers had used it for initiating the processing of a complaint.
The dispute process requires that companies are registered in the service and are prepared to use it for processing the case. There were a total of 60 contacts with the ODR contact point in 2017. In most cases, cases were closed on the forum because a foreign company had not reacted to a complaint delivered to it through the forum.