Fabian Demicoli

Market conditions for consumers continue to improve


There is an
improved performance across all consumer markets finds the 10th Consumer
Markets Scoreboard published. This improvement is particularly marked for goods
markets, while services continue to be the main sources of dissatisfaction.

"Consumers
should be the master not the servant of the market," said Commissioner for Consumer Policy
Neven Mimica, "The
Consumer Markets Scoreboard we published shows that, overall, market conditions
are getting better for consumers. However much more needs to be done, especially
on services and energy. I am working hard with my colleagues in the Commission
to address these issues, be it through the Payment Accounts Directive, the
Connected Continent package or through facilitating the switching of
suppliers."

 

The 2014
Consumer Markets Scoreboard:

The Consumer
Markets Scoreboard tracks the performance of 52 consumer markets from second
hand cars to holiday accommodation. The markets are ranked by consumers, in an
EU-wide survey In addition to survey data, the Scoreboard analyses price
dispersion across EU countries, complaints collected by national complaint
handling bodies and available safety data, based on 4 components: comparability
of offers, trust in businesses, problems & complaints and satisfaction with
businesses. The key findings are:

Market
performance is improving: The overall assessment of market performance The
Market Performance Index (MPI) has a scale from 0 to 100, across all markets
and all countries improved slightly between 2012 and 2013. This continues the
trend observed since 2010 although there are differences from market to market
and from country to country.

Goods markets
are working considerably better than services markets, although the gap has
been slowly narrowing. Compared with 2012, some of the worst performing
markets, such as vehicle fuels and train services, have improved the most.

Banking
services remain the most problematic sector, with the markets for investment
products and mortgages at the bottom of the ranking and well below the average
for the service sector. Ensuring that financial services are working to the
benefit of consumers in the current economic climate is an essential component
of EU consumer policy.

Telecom markets
score below average with scores well below the average for trust, choice of
providers and overall consumer satisfaction, and have the highest incidence of
problems and complaints of all market clusters. On the plus side the scores for
comparability and ease of switching are above average and the switching rates
are the highest for all the market clusters. In September 2013, the Commission
adopted the 'Connected Continent' package aimed at eliminating roaming charges by 2016 and
improving consumers' choice of telecom providers.

Public
utilities, in particular electricity and gas, are also rated as below average
by consumers. Despite recent improvements, utilities markets continue to score
poorly in comparability of offers, choice of providers, ease of switching and
actual switching. The Commission is working with key stakeholders to increase
the transparency of energy offers and bills, ensure customers' access to their
consumption data and facilitate switching.

Poor results
for markets for second-hand cars and vehicle fuels continue to be marked with
both well below average. An EU in-depth study into the market for vehicle fuels
has just been finalised.

 

Next Steps

Based on the findings of this
Scoreboard, the Commission services will launch two in-depth market studies: a
market study on retail electricity and a behavioural study to enhance the
reading and understanding, by consumers, of terms and conditions. The study on
retail electricity will draw comparisons with the findings of an earlier study (2010) into the market and examine the impact of the implementation of
the Third Energy Package legislation. The second study will investigate
(through behavioural testing) various conditions that could increase consumers'
willingness to read, and their capacity to understand, contracts' terms and
conditions.

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