On average, every second EU citizen shops on the internet. Danes and Brits are the most active in the EU with almost eight in ten citizens shopping online. Southern and Eastern European citizens shop the least online, but the numbers are rising. In spite of the Danes' growing interest in internet shopping, their general knowledge about consumer protection guaranteed by EU legislation is limited.
The highlights above and many more are available in the Consumer Markets Scoreboard (CMS) report, which analyses consumer conditions in the EU and ranks the markets in order to facilitate comparison of consumer conditions in the individual Member States against an EU-wide average. In this way, the report offers insights into the single market's performance in terms of integration, and the challenges that persist.
The ambition to strengthen the single market is due to the fact that consumer purchasing of goods and services generates economic growth. In fact, a full 57% of the EU's gross domestic product is generated by private consumption.
Find out more about basic rights
Although Danish consumers are more knowledgeable about consumer rights than the EU average, the Danes' level of knowledgeability has decreased in relation to the previous survey in the 2012 report. The new 2015 report also concludes that consumers and businesses in the EU generally have limited knowledge of the fundamental EU rules on consumer rights.
Only one in three consumers in the EU know that they do not have to pay for or send back unsolicited products. Four in ten know that they have the right to a free repair or replacement of defective goods, while slightly over half of consumers in the EU are aware of the right to a 14-day cooling off period in relation to distance purchases.
Barely one in ten EU citizens are familiar with all three rights. The young consumers group is least knowledgeable, while knowledgeability about consumer rights increases with age, and then declines again for the over 64s.
"A number of EU initiatives were set in motion to inform consumers and traders of the basic rights, such as the right to return goods or cancel services and the right to complain about defects for two years. When it comes to cross-border distance purchasing in the EU, the European Commission has co-financed the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Network which was set up to inform consumers of EU consumer protection and assist with complaints concerning traders in other EU countries," explains Lars Arent, director of ECC Denmark.
Variable consumer trust across Europe
Seven in ten consumers in the EU trust that a business will respect their rights as consumers.
The likelihood of consumers achieving redress if they file a complaint against a business is crucial for consumer confidence in cross-border online purchasing within the EU. However, consumer trust in the official bodies that enforce and protect their rights varies a great deal from one country to the next.
Confidence in consumer rights is greatest in the Northern and Western European countries, and in Denmark consumers are more confident that their rights will be respected than the average consumer in the EU.
Three in four consumers complain
Three in four consumers in the EU believing themselves entitled to complain, have taken active steps to pursue their claim. Of these, six in ten contacted the retailer directly, while one in seven complained to the manufacturer. One in twenty sought assistance from out-of-court dispute resolution bodies, and two per cent took the matter to court.
The majority of consumers who did not take any action in case of a problem, cited low expectations as the reason, e.g. as regards the length of the complaint procedure or the low likelihood of getting their complaint upheld. In fact, this goes to show that those consumers who complain, do so with success. Consumer ratings of complaints brought with the assistance of dispute resolution bodies are positive.
"According to the report, Danish consumers are the third least likely to waive their claim if they encounter unfair practices. This is encouraging, and is consistent with the trend we have registered at ECC Denmark. It also underpins the fact that the Danes nevertheless rank highest on the EU barometer for knowledgeability and confidence in consumer rights," Lars Arent explains.