Consumer champion lives on – Looking for money back on shopping bought online overseas?

Help is at hand, says Paul Lewis

Woman in home office during Covid-19 lockdown

A European Unionwide network that helps people in the UK to resolve international consumer disputes has been saved – for now.  The UK European Consumer Centre was founded 15 years ago and funded 50:50 by the EU and the UK government. From 1 January that EU money ended, but the UK government has stepped in to pay all of it, for 2021 at least. Now able to help resolve disputes elsewhere in the world too, it has been rebranded as the Consumer Centre UK (UKCC). “We are still open for business,” director Andrew Allen tells me, “with an expanded global remit, and we will be learning how best to benefit consumers through 2021.”

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When we buy over the internet, we often don’t know where the firm we’re buying from is located. If it’s in the UK, our rights are clear – though, of course, not always easy to enforce! But if we buy from a trader in a foreign country – naturally now including the whole of the EU – our rights depend partly on laws and procedures in that country. That’s where the UKCC can help.

It can now provide advice and assistance on rights in non-EU countries. The first stage is for you to contact the trader directly. The UKCC website has advice on how
to do this and template letters for some common complaints. If the complaint gets nowhere, then the UKCC will contact the trader and point out their legal and moral obligations. If that still fails, it can advise on how to take the matter further – even to court, though it cannot represent you.

Last year it helped 15,000 people and obtained a resolution for more than half of those. The typical amount recovered is between £400 and £700. It will still work closely with the EU network, which also includes Norway and Iceland, and has formed alliances with government organisations in Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The service is free. Email eccnet-uk@ec.europa.eu or go through the website: ukecc.net.

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Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4.  If you have a question for Paul Lewis please email paul.lewis@radiotimes.com Paul cannot answer your question personally but will endeavour to answer via his page in Radio Times magazine