There is an improved performance across all consumer markets finds the 10th Consumer Markets Scoreboard published today. 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 publish today 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 survey1, 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 performance2, 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' packageaimed 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.
Key findings from the vehicle fuels study:
The study confirms that fuel prices frequently fluctuate, even change several times a day in some countries. This is crucial in a market in which consumers’ purchasing decisions mainly revolve around price. Price comparison websites have therefore become a tool for regulators in several Member States to increase price transparency. The study highlights in particular Austria, where all fuel retailers must notify their price changes, and the relevant law permits only one price increase a day. This has ensured better price transparency for consumers and has led to price reductions of up to 2.5% for diesel and 3.6% for petrol since the pricing regulation was introduced.
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.