Consumers feel more confident in markets but performance varies by country
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Consumers feel more confident in markets but performance varies by country

The European Commission has published its 2016 Consumer Markets Scoreboard which monitors EU consumers’ ratings of how 42 goods and services markets work. The 29 services markets and 13 goods markets account for 45 % of total consumer expenditure.

The scoreboard, the first of which dates to 2010, is based on a survey of consumers’ experiences and perceptions of the functioning of key markets in all member states. A Market Performance Indicator (MPI), ranking from 0 to 100, is calculated on the basis of a number of indicators.

A high score means that consumers trust providers, suffer little detriment from problems, finds offers easy to compare, appreciate the choice available and generally consider their expectations met.

At a press conference today (5 September), Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said that “we can see from this year’s Scoreboard that consumer-friendly rules, market reforms, as well as effective enforcement of consumer rules, have made consumers more confident in the markets”.

Overall, the new data shows that most markets are performing better than two years ago. In particular, consumers’ trust in seller to respect consumer protection rules has increased across all markets.

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The largest differences in rating market performance between EU member states are found in the markets for electricity services, water supply, railway transport, mortgages and mobile telephone services. Compared to better-ranking markets, these markets are less open to cross-border competition.

The report shows the detailed results per country. The overall MPI score for all markets in Belgium is 78.3, which is somewhat lower than the EU average of 79.8 but slightly higher than in 2013. Belgium ranks among the bottom three EU member states for “commercial sport services”, “tram, local bus and metro services” and “vehicle insurance” markets. The worst performing goods market in Belgium is “second-hand cars”.

According to the report, consumers’ assessment of market functioning may be influenced by the general economic outlook of their country and the level of consumer protection in force. The functioning of consumer markets tends to have an impact on competitiveness and therefore on economic growth, says the report.

The Commission states that the findings in the surveys often result in new legislation and other initiatives. For instance, low consumer trust in financial services was at the origin of the Consumer Credit Directive that resulted in a growing trust in this sector. A meat scandal in 2013 resulted in measures to strengthen controls of the food supply chain.

Consumers have reported difficulties when dealing with the telecommunications markets. The Commission will therefore come up with a proposal in this area to address these issues. Its recent proposals on “Digital contracts” aim at improving consumer’s trust in cross-border purchases online.

The number of consumer complaints and how they are dealt with is an important indicator but not included in the MPI. A large majority of consumers (79 %) who experienced a problem have complained about it, in particular about quality, but the figures do not tell to what extent the complaints have been accepted by the national complaint bodies.

The Brussels Times (Source: European Commission)

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