Consumer advice in Germany has so far mainly been an offer that people actively had to look for. It is assumed that consumers are aware of the advisory services offered by the consumer advice centers and are actively consulting the respective advice centers for questions and problems.
However, vulnerable consumers frequently do not take advantage of these opportunities, even though they should have reasons to do so. For this reason, the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is testing the pilot approach "consumer advice in the neighborhood" in three neighborhoods of Cologne since the beginning of 2016.
ConPolicy supports this approach by consulting and evaluation. The first phase has now been completed and the first evaluation report has been handed over to the consumer advice center NRW. In this, ConPolicy draws a generally positive conclusion:
- Within a short period of time, a strong network and synergies with important actors in the neighborhoods could be observed.
- The experience so far suggests that a target group that is not easy to reach can be reached in line with their needs.
- The consumer center was able to take first steps towards a sensor function for neighborhood-specific problems.
However, the evaluation also highlights challenges and recommendations for the reduction of conceptual and organizational barriers. Primarily, ConPolicy recommends to focus available resources on narrower target groups and topics in order to prevent a diffusion of efficacy.
ConPolicy will continue to monitor the approach in 2017 and re-evaluate it.