Consuwijzer.nl gets more than two million visits
In 2009, consumers consulted the website of ConsuWijzer, the government information desk for consumers, over two million times, almost double the number of hits in 2008. What is more, 100,000 consumers received individual advice with regard to their rights. "It is good to see that consumers are now making use of the ConsuWijzer website. Consumers can obtain valuable information regarding their rights and obligations via this information desk. For the enforcement authorities behind ConsuWijzer, it forms a significant source of information when it comes to investigating unfair trading practices", explains State Secretary of Economic Affairs, Heemskerk.
Queries and Complaints 2009
The website www.consuwijzer.nl was visited over two million times throughout 2009, signifying an enormous growth when compared with 2008, at which point this figure stood at 1,050,000. Over 100,000 consumers use ConsuWijzer in order to request individual advice or submit a complaint by telephone (75,000), by e-mail (30,000) or by letter (2,000). 328,000 sample letters were downloaded from this site and 200,000 comparisons have been made using EnergieWijzer on this site.
The five types of problems most frequently reported to ConsuWijzer were as follows:
- Guarantee and non-conformity (the right to have a sound product)
- Telemarketing (misleading and/or unwelcome sales calls)
- Energy contracts (canvassing for customers)
- SMS services (unwanted subscriptions)
- Online purchases
In 2009, the enforcement authorities behind ConsuWijzer undertook a number of actions as a result of complaints and reports received on ConsuWijzer, including the following:
After receiving complaints through ConsuWijzer, the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority issued warnings to ten telephone, internet and television providers for not providing customers with clear information regarding cancellation periods. The Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority also warned 27 directory assistance services (18xy and 0900 numbers) to adhere to the rules, such as clearly informing the caller after he/she is put through, that the tariff per minute that was reported at the start of the telephone call still applies. Following the arrival of the Bel-me-niet [Do Not Call Me] Register, the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority has opened up an Information Hotline on ConsuWijzer, where over 3,400 complaints are received regarding telemarketing companies. The Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority subsequently issued three companies and one call centre with a warning and will also continue to monitor and enforce compliance with the telemarketing regulations in 2010.
The Netherlands Competition Authority [NMa] receives a number of queries and reports regarding energy companies via ConsuWijzer, in particular regarding canvassing for customers. The lack of clarity regarding tariffs and cases in which consumers are unwittingly signed up for an energy contract are reported here on a particularly frequent basis. The Netherlands Competition Authority has therefore tightened the regulations that apply to energy companies when providing information to consumers. Energy suppliers are therefore now obliged to provide customers with an exact price for their energy supply (including all surcharges and taxes) and should also explain clearly any information that is considered relevant when a customer is entering into a contract with them. The Netherlands Competition Authority has also begun carrying out an investigation into the quality of price comparison websites and the results of this investigation will be published later on in the year.
Following a continuous stream of complaints regarding SMS services on ConsuWijzer, Consumer Authority and the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority advised State Secretary Heemskerk to come up with more extensive measures in this regard and he recently announced these measures. The Consumer Authority has imposed penalties on two SMS service providers and has also spoken to two computer chains, as reports on ConsuWijzer had suggested that these companies were not complying with the guarantee regulations. Both companies have now formally undertaken to comply with the regulations from this point onwards. Consumer Authority is keeping its finger on the pulse via ConsuWijzer and has also commenced a number of different investigations into misleading and aggressive soliciting practices following a number of complaints in this regard.
ConsuWijzer is the government information desk that provides practical advice regarding your rights as a consumer. The information desk can be contacted by visiting www.consuwijzer.nl or by telephoning +31 (0)88 070 70 70 (national rate). ConsuWijzer is the initiative of three enforcement authorities of the Ministry of Economic Affairs: the Netherlands Competition Authority [NMa], the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority [OPTA] and the Consumer Authority.