European e-commerce complaints leap by 75 per cent

Complaints about products bought abroad via the Internet leapt by 75 per cent across Europe last year. Almost half of the complaints related to non-delivery of goods, with 38 per cent concerning goods that do not arrive at all.

The second largest number of complaints related either to goods being defective or not what was expected when they were ordered. Eight per cent of queries were related to problems with price and payment, with most cases involving the web trader withdrawing more money than agreed, while another eight per cent of problems involved being unable to cancel an order. Five per cent of complaints were around the issue of merchants not honouring their guarantees.

In the UK complains rose by 94 per cent over the previous year, while the number of complaints and disputes went up 74 per cent. However, the German e-tailers received the greatest number of complaints accounting for 33 per cent of all disputes. The UK e-commerce sector was second with 15 per cent in 2005 which represented a small increase over 2004.

For the third year in a row, Swedish consumers reported the most complaints and disputes against foreign web traders. The report speculates that Swedish consumers in general are rather frequent e-shoppers so would proportionately complain more. The national price level is also comparably high in Sweden, which could be an incentive for consumers to search for foreign suppliers.

As e-commerce has grown, so has the incidence of fraud. Online auction house eBay will force international sellers to open a verified PayPal account or have a credit card merchant account before they can sell through any of its local subsidiaries. The much rumoured Google Gbuy online payment system due to be announced soon is said to be restricted only to merchant accounts to minimise the risk of fraud.

The report was compiled by the network of European Consumer Centres that monitors consumer rights across the EU. You can download a full copy of the report here.

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