E-commerce gripe report: Swedes moan, Germans fail to deliver

German e-tailers are the most complained about in Europe, according to grievances brought to the attention of the European Consumer Centre Network.

The report also reveals that the majority of the cases of non-delivery of goods it hears are not fraud related.

The ECC, which is funded by the European Commission, receives complaints about illegal or unfair or inadequate web trading and has found that Germany has nearly double the number of complaints registered against it than the number two country, the UK.

Swedish people are the most frequent complainers about web traders, well ahead of France and Ireland. The high cost of living drives trade online and a well-established consumer protection structure are likely causes of the Swedes' high ranking, said the ECC report.

The most common complaint received concerns the non-delivery of goods. Though the ECC has released a statement claiming that one in three items bought online fails to arrive, in fact the statistics say that 38% of the complaints received by the body relate to goods not received.

The report also reveals that most of these cases are due to ineptitude or fixable problems, and not fraud. "In some cases, [the reason for non-delivery] can simply be a matter of fraud," said the report. "However, inadequate order processing, poor administration, or the fact that the company simply does not have the advertised goods in stock, gives rise to the majority of complaints."

The number of cross-border complaints has risen significantly on previous years, but this does not necessarily indicate that traders are becoming more dishonest, the report said.

"The large increase of cases since last year’s report is definitely noteworthy," said the ECC report. "Nevertheless, it is not likely that European webtraders are suddenly behaving much worse than in previous years."

"The increase of cases is probably only a reflection of the fact that cross-border e-commerce as a whole has increased. But even if the webtraders’ sales have increased, it also shows that the consumers still experience the same degree of problems."

Meanwhile telecoms regulator Ofcom has warned that the internet is less regulated than any traditional medium but that consumers still expect to be protected when shopping or surfing online.

"Consumers expect to be protected from fraud and other forms of harm whether online or not," said Ofcom's Research Into Consumer Protection on the Internet report. "Successful consumer protection on the internet has generally involved a much higher degree of self-regulation than has been the case for other media."

The report concludes: "In the future, we believe that consumers will have to assume greater responsibility for protecting themselves online if they are continue to enjoy the benefits of plurality and diversity of content and services the internet brings."

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