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ECC report says European consumers face discrimination based on where they live

The Services Directive prohibits discriminatory conditions based on the nationality or residence of service recipients.

A NEW REPORT by the European Consumer Centre (ECC) shows that dependent on where you leave people are unable to buy certain things or are charged a higher price for goods.

Over a three year period the report highlights the current practical difficulties faced by consumers when attempting to access cross-border services in the single market.

Single Market

The ECC stated that the Services Directive, implemented in December 2009, prohibits discriminatory conditions based on the nationality or residence of service recipients.

The report states that the efforts to remove unjustified regulatory restrictions to the provision of services may not be translating into benefits for service recipients as certain service providers are creating artificial borders within the Internal Market.

The ECC said that too often, consumers face restrictions when they try to avail of services cross-border and situations occur whereby consumers are confronted with a refusal to supply or unequal conditions because they come from or live in another EU country.

Traders

While traders are free to determine the territorial scope of their offers, consumer complaints reported to ECC show that certain business practices may be to the detriment of consumers and contrary to the principle of non-discrimination based on the nationality or place of residence of service recipients, as established by Article 20.2 of the Services Directive.

Over 75 per cent of the complaints reported to ECC related to discrimination based on consumers’ place of residence rather than their nationality.

Refusal to supply was the most frequent cause for consumer complaints, followed by price differentiation and difference in other conditions of access. E-commerce was the main channel through which consumers faced discrimination when attempting to access services.

The report found 74 per cent consumers are most frequently confronted with price or service differentiation when trying to purchase goods such as electronic items, clothes, and digital downloads.

Services

Other problematic sectors for consumers were in the provision of tourism and leisure services –  21 per cent and in car rental and leasing services – 5 per cent.

Ann Neville, Director of ECC Ireland, said that “too often consumers are unable to access the benefits of the Single Market due to discrimination based on their nationality or place of residence”.

She added: “Although the Services Directive strengthens the rights of recipients of services, consumers need this legislation to work effectively in practice. It’s of the utmost importance to work on consumer rights in the digital market. The report shows that much work remains to be done to ensure that consumers’ rights are respected”.

Read: More than €12 million spent training Irish language graduates to translate EU legislation>

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