Centre Européen des Consommateurs France European Consumer Centre

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					Centre Européen des Consommateurs France
European Consumer Centre France

                     Annual report 2007 of ECC France

The priorities for ECC France during the year 2007 were to first and foremost inform
stakeholders about experiences and difficulties encountered by European consumers in order
to improve the European politic and better protect consumers’ rights. Also, among its priorities
was to become a privileged interlocutor of numerous European and national organizations
and to take part in the debates on European consumer protection.

The center located in Kehl is a trusted partner that profits from the Franco-German synergy
and counts with a group of jurists specialized on European laws who can provide a bi-national
expertise on all cross border issues.

The center in Kehl is an important part of the network. This year, more than 40% of the
complaints passed through Kehl (ECC France and Germany).The bi-national aspect of the
structure and the way ECC France and Germany have to work hand in hand provide rapid
solutions to consumers.

To assist on an even more practical level, ECC France created privileged links with other
European networks like the EU-wide network of public enforcement (CPC), ADR-bodies and
some traders.

To become more visible nationally and attract media attention, ECC France participated in
public events, press conferences, a joint tourism project, expert meetings, and started an
educational project for young consumers.

Timeshare: Introduction of a new directive

In 2007, ECC France participated in a public consultation to attract attention to the fact that
the Timeshare directive of 1994 needed to be revised.

Revisions are indeed necessary due to the bad reputation that timeshares had been acquiring
throughout the years with consumers. The consumer usually had no protection. In 1994, the
Directive defined timeshare as a right of possession of an accommodation located in holiday
residences and limited to a certain period during the year. Moreover, the legislation only
concerned contracts lasting more than 35 months. In response to a more complicated and a
bigger timeshare market, which offered more and various products and which was
characterized by disloyal and aggressive commercial practices, a change to the law of 1994
was necessary. The European Commission proposes therefore to enlarge the protection rules
to a bigger range of products, including holiday clubs. Also one year contracts and more, and
the right to sell and exchange timeshares will be covered in the new legislation.

The new proposition was sent to the European Union and the European Parliament on June
7, 2007. If everything works as planned, the new law will be adopted in two years.

Electronic Commerce: Increasing consumer awareness

ECC France highlighted the evolutions in the sector of electronic commerce.

In recent years, the Internet has become the main tool in cross border transactions.
Consumers buy everything online, from tickets to concerts and sports events, they also plan
their vacations online, shop, and sell their own products. This increase in Internet activities
has increased the number of transactions, but also the number of complaints. The most
typical complaints are those involving lack of delivery. Failure to deliver a product happens for
various reasons and among them are: structural problems of the seller, problems with

    Rehfusplatz 11   77694 Kehl – Allemagne      Tél : + 49 7851 991 48 0   Fax : + 49 7851 991 48 11
                                   E-Mail : info@euroinfo-kehl.eu            www.euroinfo-kehl.eu
Centre Européen des Consommateurs France
European Consumer Centre France

transportation, or unethical behavior of the seller regarding the legal guaranty of conformity.
ECC France believes that these types of litigations are common mainly because consumers
are not well informed about their rights once they participate in electronic commerce. Even
the sellers themselves are not aware of consumers’ rights. As a result, the ECC France has
served to achieve amicable settlements between consumers and sellers. It has also filled in
the gap that the “Médiateur du Net” (French ombudsman for e-commerce) does not fill. The
latter focuses only on French consumers whereas ECC France deals with cross border

During the year 2008, the aim is to keep informing consumers about their rights and
obligations once they participate in electronic commerce and maintain and grow the
relationships with other ADR schemes.

Vehicles and Hidden Defects

Imagine the following scenario: a consumer buys a vehicle in a member state that it is not his
home country. Later on, he experiences mechanical problems with subsequent expensive
reparations that he must pay, and which the foreign constructor/seller is not willing to assume.

This type of complaint increased during the year 2007. Because consumers usually need to
repair their vehicles fast enough to return to work, they usually do not have enough time to
seek professional advice. Also, the media plays a role by diffusing information and alerts on
mechanical defects of specific models in the market, something that motivates consumers to
rapidly demand damages from constructors. The ECC France becomes their final interlocutor
when trying to address their claim or have questions on any other cross border issue.

The ECC France for now has dealt with the cases individually. In 2007, certain cases had a
positive ending but an action, at the European or national level, seems to become necessary.

The rights of airline passengers

In 2007, there was an increase in complaints in the tourist sector particularly in the field of air
transport and air passengers’ rights.

The ECC France observed that a major part of complaints relies on confusion when
interpreting the EU regulation on air passengers’ rights. The rights provided by the Regulation
such as: the right to ticket reimbursement; to be offered a different flight when a passenger’s
flight is canceled, to damages for lost or damaged baggage, is usually denied by airlines.
Most often airline companies are hiding behind the excuse of “exceptional circumstances” to
deny airline passengers their rights.

As a result, the ECC France found it necessary to cooperate with the Direction Generale de
l’Aviation Civile (DGAC), the French national enforcement body (NEB) which monitors the
application by airline companies of the regulation 261/2004. The ECC also participated in a
conference in Berlin in 2007 which addressed the problems of EU regulation enforcement due
to airlines behavior. After this conference, the link between ECC France and the DGAC
became stronger, and now both cooperate to assist airline passengers and exchange on legal
interpretations concerning the texts governing air passenger rights. A meeting was also held
in Paris in December 2007 between ECC France and Air France, with the goal of working
more closely to interpret the laws and address cross border litigations.

Mediation: There is a lack of specialized mediators

To help consumers deal with litigations, the ECC France can count with professionals
established in another member state. The ECC can serve as an intermediary between the
parties to help with the language barriers and juridical obstacles. It can also help consumers
have access to other ADR schemes in Europe.

     Rehfusplatz 11   77694 Kehl – Allemagne      Tél : + 49 7851 991 48 0   Fax : + 49 7851 991 48 11
                                    E-Mail : info@euroinfo-kehl.eu            www.euroinfo-kehl.eu
Centre Européen des Consommateurs France
European Consumer Centre France

ECC France explained that the European Commission incites the member states to promote
extrajudicial modes to solve consumer litigations. For example, in 2006, 9 new mediators
were notified by the French state to intervene in specific domains such as: energy, railway
transportation, telephone, Internet, and Postal Service. This shows some improvement
regarding mediation but there are still numerous sectors in France that need a mediation
system. For example, the tourism sector particularly needs more mediators. France receives
a grand number of visitors every year and numerous litigations follow as well, but in this
sector there are not specialized mediators that can help foreign consumers. A specialized
mediator could help solve such a problem rapidly.

During the year 2007, ECC France carried out multiple public interventions to raise
awareness about the usefulness of ADR and met and discussed with politicians specifically
about the problems in the tourism sector. For this reason, with the French presidency of the
European Union in 2008, ECC France will probably organize a conference about tourism and
mediation with the goal of creating a specialized team of mediators accessible to all

Educating Young Consumers: A priority

The arrival of the Euro and the growth of electronic commerce have increased the number of
consumers that buy merchandise abroad. Now, the young generation is an easy target for
commercial companies. The ECC France would like to help the young generation to be better
consumers in Europe and to help them understand their rights as consumers so that they can
fully benefit from the Internal market.

Thanks to the concerted Franco-German action, a high school project will be developed to
educate students about being better consumers in Europe.

Communication: The main objective is to raise awareness

After publishing information through the media or participating in public events, consumer
demands have increased at the European Consumers Centre France. Relationships formed
with other consumer organizations have also increased the number of consumers using the
center’s services. In 2008, a new tool should let the center better measure how many
consumers return after a publication in the media or after attending a public event.

The new welcome page on the online site: www.euroinfo-kehl.eu highlights the latest news
through numerous articles, it highlights the important meetings for the year, the results of the
ECC-Net report on air passengers’ rights, or a special meeting concerning buying real estate
property in Germany, the cases of satisfied consumers that were helped by the jurists in Kehl,
and other useful alerts to beware and inform consumers.

Important Events

The results of the cross border German-French price survey were diffused during the German
presidency of the European Union and it captured the attention of the regional and national

The regional and national media also reported on the rights of airline passengers after a
report was published online exposing the concrete examples of passengers. The second
report published by the network of European Consumer Centres, which highlighted
companies’ inadequate business practices (example: lack of respect for consumer rights),
also captured media attention.

    Rehfusplatz 11   77694 Kehl – Allemagne      Tél : + 49 7851 991 48 0   Fax : + 49 7851 991 48 11
                                   E-Mail : info@euroinfo-kehl.eu            www.euroinfo-kehl.eu