Serious problems encountered in E-Commerce

16th of June 2006

The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) conducted a survey involving practically all of the European Union Member States together with Norway and Iceland in order to obtain an overview of the common consumer problems encountered with e-commerce. The European Consumer Centre of Estonia, as a member of the European Consumer Centres Network, also participated in the survey that was concluded in July of this year. The centres involved in the network are active in solving the problems consumers may have in relation to cross-border purchases.

The purpose of the survey was to map violations of consumer rights, incurred in the course of business conducted on the Internet, and to analyse complaints filed by consumers, therefore contributing to the organisation of the e-commerce market and enhancing consumer awareness.

In total, the European Consumer Centres Network  received 1,834 complaints regarding purchases made on the Internet in 2005 and 1,946 inquiries concerning the rights of consumers.

The survey revealed the main problems encountered in Internet commerce are related to the delivery of goods ordered (46% of the total number of complaints) while goods that have been ordered and paid for often fail to reach the consumer.

The second most frequently encountered problem is related to the quality of the goods ordered via Internet, and the fact that the online-traders often refuse to acknowledge their obligation to repair or replace goods with defects or refund the money paid by the consumer. About one tenth of the cross-border complaints regarding e-commerce, solved by the European Consumer Centres in 2005, were related to misleading price information given by online shops. Also, a large number of complaints were caused by unfair terms of contract while the same number of complaints dealt with the possible cheating of consumers by merchants.

The number of complaints concerning cross-border online purchases is relatively low in Estonia – in 2005, the European Consumer Centre received and handled six applications concerning the business. At the same time, one may expect that the number of complaints concerning cross-border purchases on e-commerce is going to increase in Estonia as it has happened in other countries; this is, above all, related to the expanding activities of international web-based purchase environments and the increasing popularity of purchases made on the Internet.

The survey - “The European Online Marketplace: Consumer Complaints 2005” – is available in English: www.consumer.ee/?id=1550 .