ConsuWijzer: unsolicited phone calls and unwanted automatic renewal of subscriptions top list of consumer annoyances
In 2011, visitors of Dutch consumer information website ConsuWijzer.nl were mostly interested in the new rules on canceling subscriptions and contracts. Unsolicited phone calls topped the list of consumer annoyances. In addition, questions and reports about warranty issues continue to be among the top categories. These are some of the conclusions that can be drawn from the 2011 figures that ConsuWijzer published earlier today.
ConsuWijzer.nl had almost 2.3 million hits in 2011. It received some 85,000 reports about problems consumers encountered when purchasing products or services. Such reports serve as important indications for the three regulators behind ConsuWijzer, which are the Netherlands Consumer Authority, the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa), and the Netherlands Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority (OPTA). These three authorities will merge into the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets in 2013.
Sample letters, available on ConsuWijzer.nl, enabling consumers to stand up for their rights, were downloaded by consumers more than 490,000 times in 2011. In addition, ConsuWijzer.nl in 2011 was chosen by the general public as ‘Best Government Website’ for the second time in a row. Pauline Bijlenga, head of ConsuWijzer, comments: ‘ConsuWijzer has been around now for five years. Informing consumers about their rights continues to be crucial. Using the information and tools on www.ConsuWijzer.nl, consumers are able to take action against companies that are not taking consumer protection rules very seriously.’ In part as a result of the indications submitted to ConsuWijzer, the Netherlands Consumer Authority, OPTA, and the NMa have each launched various investigations and imposed fines.
2011 facts and figures regarding ConsuWijzer
Top three of most consulted information pages:
- Canceling subscriptions or contracts / unwanted automatic renewals;
- Telemarketing and do-not-call-me register;
- Warranty and non-conformity.
Top five categories of most received reports by ConsuWijzer:
- Misleading and aggressive sales techniques, particularly customer-recruitment by phone for, among other things, lotteries and charities;
- Warranty, particularly in electronics market;
- Bills and payments, particularly in telecommunications and energy markets;
- Canceling subscriptions, particularly gyms and magazines;
- Questions about new laws, particularly about the new rules on subscriptions.
Top five reports by industry:
- Telecommunications (do-not-call-me register and bills);
- Energy (do-not-call-me register and bills);
- Electronics / home and small appliances (particularly warranty issues);
- Gambling and lotteries (do-not-call-me register);
- Home furnishing retail (warranty issues and delivery times).
Regulatory actions following reports
The indications and reports that consumers submit to ConsuWijzer are crucial pieces of information for the three regulators behind it. Here are some of the actions they took in 2011:
- OPTA imposed fines, totaling EUR 1.2 million for violation of telemarketing regulations, including the rules on the do-not-call-me register;
- OPTA warned consumers through ConsuWijzer, for example, on returning phone calls from blocked foreign numbers. In addition, OPTA took several numbers off the air following complaints;
- The Netherlands Consumer Authority fined five electronics companies for violating warranty rules, and an energy company for misleading door-to-door selling;
- The Netherlands Consumer Authority also warned consumers about two untrustworthy online shops;
- The NMa fined an energy company for denying some of its former customers overpayment refunds they were entitled to after having switched energy companies, and it fined two energy companies for misleading door-to-door selling;
- Thanks in part to reports submitted to ConsuWijzer, the NMa was able to track down a cartel involving foreclosure auctions.
ConsuWijzer is the information portal of the Dutch government for practical advice about your rights as a consumer. You can reach ConsuWijzer online at www.consuwijzer.nl or by calling 088 – 070 70 70 (within the Netherlands at national rate). ConsuWijzer is an initiative of three regulatory bodies under the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation: the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa), the Netherlands Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority (OPTA) and the Netherlands Consumer Authority. These three authorities will merge on January 1, 2013, into the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM).