Consumer organizations play an important role in providing consumers with independent advice. This advice assists consumers when they purchase a new (complex) product or when they encounter a problem with a trader or service provider after they have purchased the product. To solicit this advice, consumers are traditionally expected to visit consumer advice centers. But research and experience in many EU member states show that many consumers that would benefit from such advice, do not visit the advice centers. The reasons for this are plentiful: For people that live in rural areas, the distance to visit an advice center is often too far. Furthermore, language barriers or low-levels of self-help potential explain why even people in need often do not seek support.
Hence, some member states experiment with new forms of advice services. They reach out to places where consumers are present (e.g. supermarkets) and engage them. They collaborate with 'multiplier' actors (such as family help centers, schools, homes for the elderly etc.) or they use local communication channels taking into account local products and providers and using the target groups’ language. The European Commission’s New Consumer Agenda recognizes these 'non-traditional' forms of consumer advice and foresees to support initiatives providing local advice to consumers.
Against this background, DG JUST commissioned this study to map initiatives in the 27 EU Member States that provide advice to (vulnerable) consumers at local level and identify good practices.
The study was conducted jointly by VVA and ConPolicy from November 2021 until October 2022. In the implementation a wide range of methods, including desk research, stakeholder and expert interviews and a consumer survey were combined.