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UK in Division 2 for consumer empowerment

Posted on: Wednesday 27th of April 2011

A new EU-wide research survey published in April 2011, has shown that the UK lags behind many other countries according to a consumer empowerment index. The research revealed that less than 50% of the 56,000 respondents (in 29 countries answering 70 questions) felt confident, knowledgeable and protected as consumers.

The European Commission said that the “results show that consumer awareness and skills are worryingly low. However, there is a considerable potential to empower consumers and thereby to improve consumer welfare and reduce consumer detriment. The internet and the media have a key role to play in consumer empowerment with more than 38% of consumers using the internet to compare products and given the media’s capacity to reach citizens directly”.

The research, published by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen, found the most empowered Europeans in Norway (highest ranking), followed by Finland, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Czech Republic, Austria, and Iceland.

The middle ranking is dominated by countries, such as France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Ireland, together with Cyprus, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta.

Ranking lower on the index are Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria.

The survey also indicates that the least empowered consumers are those: who are less educated; over 54 years old; non users of the internet; retired or unable to work through illness.

Perhaps worryingly for the UK, the overall ranking that the researchers developed put it in a very lowly 16th place. The one area where retailers (and manufacturers) could help is obvious – the only two measures where the UK seriously underperformed against the EU average were in understanding of guarantees and in the knowledge of consumer support organisations. For us, that is a real opportunity for better customer engagement; fix the problem but if that doesn’t work suppliers should make sure that customers are actively told about how to get redress.

For the full report click here.