The COVID-19 outbreak is bringing unprecedented disruption to people’s daily lives, travels and finances. Many have lost their income, are struggling to repay their credit and worrying about how to cope with their energy bills. The crisis is also rapidly changing policy actions by the EU and its Member States.
In responding to the fallout of this crisis, BEUC urges decision-makers to be mindful of how any response might affect a variety of consumer policy fields. These range from passenger rights to access to medicines, telecommunications, the Green Deal effort to fight the climate crisis, online scams and more.
On this page you will find an overview of actions, responses and issues detected by the BEUC secretariat and network of consumer groups.
Are you living in Europe and looking for advice on your rights in the current crisis? Please go here to find information by consumer groups in your country.
General consumer policy | Competition | Consumer rights & enforcement | Digital rights | Energy | Financial services | Food | Health | Product safety & market surveillance | Sustainability / European Green Deal | Trade policy
- 24/04: In a letter, we asked European Commissioner Thierry Breton to make sure that measures taken at EU and national level to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the economy take full account of consumers’ interests.
- 03/04: We wrote to European Commissioner Didier Reynders on the implications of COVID-19 for consumers. In annex, we list the issues that require EU attention such as the supply of medicines, passenger rights, excessive prices, loan repayments, and higher energy bills.
- 08/04: State aid: We wrote to Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager. In our letter, we ask her to ensure that the measures taken at EU and national level to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the economy take full account of the interests of consumers, and in particular to ensure that state aid enhances and does not adversely impact consumer welfare.
24/04: Unfair practices or fraud are often cross-border or Europe-wide infringements of legislation. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, more and more cases of excessive prices have been observed. The affected products range from masks and disinfectant gels to high-tech ones such as printers. Consumer associations are working tirelessly as market watchdogs to warn consumers against such practices. We asked the European Commission to encourage authorities to watch over price developments in all sectors.
Traveller and passenger rights
- 02/07: We applauded the European Commission’s decision to launch infringement proceedings against ten countries (Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia), for breaching EU law on reimbursement for cancelled travel due to COVID-19.
- 13/05: On this day, the European Commission published a recommendation to EU countries, calling them to uphold travellers’ rights to reimbursement for travel cancelled due to COVID-19 and proposing how to offer voluntary vouchers to consumers. We welcomed the Commission’s call for EU countries to comply with EU legislation and quickly establish national schemes to ensure all ‘COVID-19 travel vouchers’ are insolvency protected.
- 30/04: We wrote to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to say that European passenger rights must be upheld during the COVID-19 crisis.
- 27/04: In a press release, we urged EU ministers to find a fair solution for consumers and business for cancelled travel: imposed vouchers are not acceptable.
- 24/04: In our letter to European Commissioner Thierry Breton, we recommended that a European fund is set up to ensure the tourism industry has sufficient liquidity or that national funding initiatives, such as the Danish package travel fund, are expanded.
- 03/04: In a press release on package travel, we said it is unacceptable that consumers are being forced to accept vouchers instead of a monetary refund. Consumers should not foot the bill of bailing out the travel industry.
- 31/03: We wrote to European Commissioner Didier Reynders on package travel.
- 31/03: We wrote to European Commissioner Adina-Ioana Vălean on the enforcement of air passenger rights in the COVID-19 context. We expressed our concerns regarding the offer of vouchers, as opposed to refunds, to consumers facing flight cancellations
- 19/03: In a press release, we argued that supporting a travel sector deeply hit by the COVID-19 crisis and upholding consumers’ rights in case of travel cancellations should not be a trade-off.
- 24/04: COVID-19 and digital rights: In a letter to European Commissioner Thierry Breton, we expressed our views on a) COVID-19 apps, b) the need to secure full and non-discriminate access to the internet, and c) online scams.
- 20/04: Digital health: COVID-19 is speeding up the spread of digital health tools and the use of artificial intelligence in health care. Jelena Malinina – our digital health expert – looked at some of the risks of this trend for consumers.
- 23/04: Energy poverty: COVID-19 creates major energy poverty challenges. William Baker, energy expert from the UK's Citizens Advice, explained what can be done to help people pay their bills and keep powering their homes.
- 21/04: COVID-19 and energy: We wrote to European Commissioner Kadri Simson about the implications of COVID-19 for energy consumers. We called for an end to disconnections for non-payment of energy bills; for flexibility to settle energy bills and debts; and for energy-specific measures on social inclusion.
- 06/05: Online payments: COVID-19 cannot be an excuse to delay making online payments safer, we said in a press release.
- 07/04: Loan repaymnets: We called upon European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis to give borrowers in financial difficulties should have the right to defer monthly repayments of their credits for at least six months.
- 12/05: 'Farm to Fork' strategy: COVID-19 has brought about major disruptions to the EU food system, shaking supply and demand, and disorganising trade flows. The agri-food sector undeniably needs help to deal with the crisis. Yet, using COVID-19 to call for pushing back the shift to a more sustainable and resilient food system is sheer nonsense, our food expert Camille Perrin wrote.
- 14/04: 'Farm to Fork' strategy: Together with other civil society organisations, we urged the European Commission not to postpone its Farm to Fork strategy. The climate crisis will still be there once COVID-19 is behind us. More than ever, the EU must ensure that tomorrow, all consumers can access sufficient, healthy and sustainable food at a fair price.
- 13/05: Supply of medicines: We wrote to European Commissioner Stella Kyriakides on the disruptions of global pharmaceutical supply chains in the wake of governments’ responses to COVID-19.
- 20/04: Digital health: COVID-19 is speeding up the spread of digital health tools and the use of artificial intelligence in health care. Jelena Malinina – our digital health expert – looked at some of the risks of this trend for consumers.
- 08/04: Medicine prices: In a press release, we commented that COVID-19 is a wake-up call to end sky-high medicine prices.
- 27/03: COVID-19 and health policy: In a letter to European Commissioners Stella Kyriakides and Mariya Gabriel we shared our concerns over the lack of attention to affordability in EU research funding for COVID-19 treatments. We also deplored the delay of the Medical Devices Regulation.
- 24/04: Online scams: We informed European Commissioner Thierry Breton about our member organisations (national consumer groups) uncovering various online product scams. These include unsubstantiated safety claims, disinformation, selling sub-standard products or demanding unjustifiably high prices.
- 24/04: European Green Deal: We relayed to European Commissioner Thierry Breton that we view the European Green Deal as the guiding principle to steer Europe's recovery.
- 02/04: European Green Deal: We urged European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans to stick to the ambitious strategy described in the European Green Deal.
13/05: Supply of medicines: We wrote to European Commissioner Phil Hogan on the disruptions of global pharmaceutical supply chains in the wake of governments’ responses to COVID-19.
On this page, you will find a selection of policy responses from consumer groups in the BEUC network.
In this time of crisis, European consumers are faced not only with big health risks but also economic loss and uncertainty. Our members advise and support consumers on a daily basis about cancellation of travel, payment of credit rates, scams and more. Looking for advice? Please go here to find information for your country.
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- 02/04: Passenger rights: Following many complaints from consumers on being offered vouchers or rebookings when a flight is cancelled, Arbeiterkammer clarified: travellers have to right to get their money back. Arbeiterkammer also restated its demand for airline bankruptcy protection – as for package tours – and no restriction of the current consumer rights for travel.
- 25/03: Protecting consumers from high mobile phone costs: Arbeiterkammer appealed to mobile phone operators, who noted a surge in data volumes, to allow people to communicate without having to worry about bill shocks.
Austria, Verein für Konsumenteninformation (VKI)
- 31/03: Action against providers of face masks and disinfectants: VKI sued a company because of the inadequate product descriptions on its website.
- 23/03: Vouchers for package travel: VKI urged for caution when vouchers are offered instead of repayment. The organisation says the risk of bankruptcy must not be passed on to consumers.
- 27/06: Event cancellations: Test Achats/Aankoop urged the Belgian government for clarity on the use of vouchers when concerts, festivals or sport games are cancelled. A ministerial decision that allows these vouchers to be issued is vaguely worded, which has resulted in many practical unclarities for consumers.
- 19/06: Ghost flights: Test Achats/Aankoop alerted Belgian authorities about flights being offered at attractive prices and then being cancelled, sometimes only mere minutes after the booking is completed. Flights that remain available for the same destination are, however, offered at (much) higher prices.
- 05/06: Maximum price for masks: According to a Test Achats/Aankoop survey, 88% of Belgian consumers believe the country's government should provide sufficient masks of good quality to people who need them. 82% would like to see a maximum price set for masks, which is a demand of the Belgian consumer group.
- 07/05: COVID-19 apps: A Test Achats/Aankoop survey found that while Belgians see the value of using data to control the COVID-19 pandemic, they are apprehensive about their privacy and only support apps using anonymised data. 64% of respondents worried about the consequences of the crisis for their data privacy rights.
- 21/04: High prices for disinfectant hand gels and masks: Test Achats/Aankoop reported a significant number of consumer complaints on price increases for hand gels and masks. For example: the smaller the bottle, the higher the price per litre. The organisation therefore called to cap prices on these products.
- 14/04: Passenger rights / Online scams: Test Achats/Aankoop called on EU leaders to protect consumers and their rights. They made this call ahead of a European Parliament committee debate on the matter.
- 07/04: Higher limits on contactless payment: Customers will soon have to enter their PIN code only when paying more than 50 euros. Test Achats/Aankoop urged to scale these measures back once the crisis is over.
- 07/04: #StopCoronaAbuse platform: Test Achats/Aankoop received over 100 reports on its platform against corona-related sales scams since its launch a week earlier. The majority of complaints concerned sudden price increases.
- 28/03: Tackling deceptive practices: Test-Achats/Aankoop asked its government to intervene against unfair trading practices and quacks who claim to have products that protect consumers from contamination.
- 25/03: Letter to Sophie Wilmès, Belgian PM, on package travel: Test Achats/Aankoop urged its PM to revoke a decree on package travel that is not in line with EU law.
- 28/04: Hand sanitiser test: Асоциация Активни потребители reported that only 3 out of 21 tested hand sanitisers fully comply with the World Health Organization’s recommendations for alcohol concentration. Meanwhile, they noted prices range from 15 to 259 lev (€7 - €262) per litre.
- 01/05: Energy trends in Czechia: Energy fraudsters – who advertise seemingly advantageous offers for a new energy supply contract – can benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic, dTest warned in their May magazine. They did so in an article about the issues Czech energy consumers face today and what changes await them in the future. dTest also described their efforts to tackle energy poverty by participating in the STEP (Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty) project, which is coordinated by BEUC.
- 10/05: COVID-19 and consumers: Anja Philip, President of Forbrugerrådet Tænk, wrote an op-ed in the Danish newspaper Politiken where she underlined the need for confident consumers in the economy's recovery.
- 25/03: Differences in travel insurance coverage: A Forbrugerrådet Tænk survey showed there is a big difference when it comes to insurers' travel and cancellation insurance cover amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
- 14/05: Traveller rights: Eesti Tarbijakaitse Liit commented on the European Commission recommendation to uphold travellers’ right to choose between either reimbursement or a voucher.
- 13/05: Food waste: In a survey by Kuluttajaliitto-Konsumentförbundet, more than a quarter of respondents say that food waste at home has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for regular meals has increased as families spend more time at home than before. Reduced food waste also reduces food costs as the previous day’s leftovers are used more efficiently.
- 25/04: Consumer credit and responsible lending: Kuluttajaliitto-Konsumentförbundet reported that as many as one-fifth of Finnish consumers have already taken, are considering or may consider taking on additional debt because of COVID-19. The consumer group expressed its support for a government proposal to prevent debt from spiralling out of control, which includes a temporary ban on direct marketing of consumer credit.
- 25/03: High-interest consumer loans: Kuluttajaliitto-Konsumentförbundet asked the Finnish government to investigate the possibilities to limit the interest rate on loans and to impose other restrictions on the activities of lenders. This would help consumers survive in times of financial uncertainty.
- 13/03: Digital scams: Scam messages exploit the fear and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Kuluttajaliitto-Konsumentförbundet is gathering information about these scams.
- 01/07: Passenger rights: UFC-Que Choisir and CLCV urged the European Commission to make sure passenger rights laws are respected in France.
- 19/05: Passenger rights: Following their action in April, UFC-Que Choisir noticed 20 airlines continued to violate regulations by imposing vouchers on passengers as reimbursement for their cancelled flights. It therefore launched a legal action against those airlines before the Paris Court of Justice.
- 11/05: Price of essential products: UFC Que-Choisir has checked the price of essential products in 10 supermarkets during the COVID-19 lockdown. It found the price of products such as pasta, water, milk, canned food, toilet paper to have risen by 3.2% compared to before the lockdown. The price of fruits and vegetables has increased by 7% and by 16% for organic ones. This is mainly due to logistic and labour challenges.
- 24/04: Passenger rights: Having been alerted by thousands of consumers, UFC-Que Choisir analysed the reimbursement methods of 76 airlines. Only 23% of them met the obligation to immediately reimburse cancelled tickets. UFC-Que Choisir called on the other 57 airlines to respect the rights of passengers.
- 09/04: “My life in confinement”: 12,000 people participated in the second instalment of UFC-Que Choisir’s survey. Amongst others, it found that 45% of respondents experienced shortages in supermarkets, especially when it comes to staple foods and protection against COVID-19.
- 07/04: Phishing websites: Plenty of fraudulent websites linked to the COVID-19 crisis have been closed, but malicious content keeps returning. UFC-Que Choisir highlighted one website that is representative of the scams.
France, Consommation, logement et cadre de vie (CLCV)
- 01/07: Passenger rights: CLCV and UFC-Que Choisir urged the European Commission to make sure passenger rights laws are respected in France.
- 13/05: Bank charges: CLCV called for a cap on bank charges of €25 in order to protect the many households facing economic difficulties as a result of COVID-19. They have written to France's Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, on the matter.
- 19/03: Housing: Tenants struggling to move into or leave their accommodation, real estate agencies refusing to carry out inventories: the COVID-19 crisis poses major issues with regard to housing. CLCV therefore asked to be involved in any measures taken with respect to this topic.
- 16/06: Financial losses: A vzbv survey showed that one-fifth of consumers has suffered losses due to the COVID-19 crisis. The survey also unveiled differences in people's perception on crisis policy. For example, younger consumers are more inclined to think that politics tends to focus on the interests of companies. Only 4% of respondents think there is a focus on the interest of consumers.
- 15/06: COVID-19 apps: vzbv said the German federal government's COVID-19 warning app goes in the right direction. The consumer group stressed that the principle of voluntariness is essential, and must be applied and checked in practice. For example, it should not be the case that employers, restaurants or authorities define use of the app as an entry requirement.
- 05/06: Economic stimulus package: vzbv welcomed the German federal government's economic stimulus package. The consumer group said the package sends a good signal to consumers as it will strengthen private purchasing power by lowering value-added tax (VAT), reducing electricity prices and limiting social security contributions. Vzbv called on industry and commerce associations to commit to passing on the lower VAT to consumers.
- 15/05: Event cancellations: vzbv criticised a decision by Germany's Federal Council to oblige consumers to accept vouchers for courses and events that are cancelled due to COVID-19. The consumer group said the risks and costs of the crisis are being passed on to consumers. And there is no protection against loss of voucher value in case of bankruptcy.
- 07/05: Loan repayments: vzbv asked the German federal government to take action against banks who continue to charge interest on loans, despite a three-month moratorium on credit repayments.
- 08/04: Traveller rights: According to a government decision, companies should not initially have to reimburse costs for cancelled events. Consumers should instead be obliged to accept vouchers. vzbv commented that this unfairly distributes the burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of consumers.
- 06/04: Survey on people's COVID-19 worries: vzbv's results show that – on 31 March & 1 April – the majority of German consumers worried about health care accessibility, the loss in value of private pensions, and the reimbursement of cancelled trips and events.
- 31/03: Five conditions for a COVID-19 app: vzbv commented such an app could be useful in Germany but it must be voluntary, suitable, necessary, proportionate and limited in time.
- 25/03: Safeguarding consumers in the corona crisis: vzbv commented on its government's corona aid package.
- 20/03: Digital healthcare in the COVID-19 crisis: The current crisis situation is pushing healthcare in Germany to the limit of its resilience. vzbv commented on the possibilities offered by digital health.
- 23/04: Traveller rights: ΕΚΠΟΙΖΩ sent a letter to its ministry about travel cancellations. Among others, it wrote that choosing vouchers instead of a refund should remain a choice for consumers.
- 16/04: Overindebtedness and primary residence: Building on their petition, ΕΚΠΟΙΖΩ called on the Greek government to protect indebted households that are in real difficulty to repay their mortgage. They asked the government to ensure no citizen ends up on the street and to suspend all home auctions until the end of the year. ΕΚΠΟΙΖΩ also urged for a permanent bankruptcy mechanism for natural persons.
- 07/04: Medicine prices and compulsory licensing: ΕΚΠΟΙΖΩ wrote an open letter to 37 Member States of the WHO, alongside other civil society organisations. They ask these countries to change existing regulations in order to make new medicines available and affordable.
- 03/04: Involve consumer groups: ΕΚΠΟΙΖΩ urged the Greek Prime Minister to systematically involve consumer groups when urgent measures are taken amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
- 03/02: Overindebtedness and primary residence: ΕΚΠΟΙΖΩ launched a petition to protect people's main residence in the event they are – without there being a case of deceit – unable to repay a mortgage They created this petition having in mind the effects COVID-19 is likely to have on the Greek economy, and especially with the country repealing a law that protected people's main residence. ΕΚΠΟΙΖΩ called upon its government to protect overindebted households.
- 05/05: Medical goods: ΚΕ.Π.ΚΑ sent a letter to Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) about a proposal by Greece’s Prime Minister to ensure citizens across the world have access to vaccines, medicines and tests for COVID-19, and that no country has a monopoly. ΚΕ.Π.ΚΑ also wrote to the Prime Minister to congratulate him on this proposal.
- 23/04: Medicine prices: In a press statement, ΚΕ.Π.ΚΑ underlined the long-standing problem of high medicine prices. The consumer group urged the EU to ensure that treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tests are accessible and affordable, both for consumers and for health systems.
- 09/04: Paying loans: ΚΕ.Π.ΚΑ urged the Greek government to allow consumers to defer the monthly instalments of their loans for at least six months.
- 08/04: Compulsory vouchers: ΚΕ.Π.ΚΑ called on the Greek government for a right balance between business and consumer protection. They said it is unacceptable for consumers to be forced to accept coupons instead of monetary compensation when an organised trip, flight, or train journey is cancelled.
- 13/03: Supporting vulnerable consumers: ΚΕ.Π.ΚΑ called on the Greek government to take measures that would prevent people from having to queue to access cash or pay their utility bills.
- 02/04: Consumer rights: Neytendasamtökin urged the Icelandic government not to weaken consumer rights amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The organisation's board also said that government action in favour of companies should be fully passed on to consumers.
- 05/05: Traveller rights: The CAI commented that entitlement to refunds for consumers cannot be in any way diminished or be made open to negotiation. In addition, the organisation urged to see alternative options, such as vouchers, guaranteed for their value through bonding or Government underwriting.
- 22/04: Traveller rights: In an interview, The CAI's Dermot Jewell criticised lobbying efforts to change rules so as to offer travellers vouchers instead of refunds.
- 07/05: COVID-19 apps: Altroconsumo's research found that while Italians are in favour of COVID-19 emergency management apps, they have doubts about the processing of personal data.
- 23/04: COVID-19 and food habits/nutrition: Altroconsumo asked consumers how their food habits changed during the health emergency. They found that, for example, 41% of surveyed Italians throw away less food than before the pandemic and many have improved their efforts to combat food waste. The surveyed people also tended to both cook and eat more. Worryingly, Altroconsumo found a drop in people buying fresh food, which contrasts with increased buying of snacks and sweets.
- 10/04: Price and availability in supermarkets: Altroconsumo found that food prices in supermarkets are generally stable, in contrast to what people might expect. Any problems seem rather related to the supply/availability, which leads consumers to buy products that are more expensive.
- 08/04: Price and availability of masks: Altroconsumo analysed the sales of masks in 8 Italian cities as well as online. They found speculation on prices and difficulty in finding the products.
- Fundraising: Altroconsumo is raising funds for a hospital in Milan.
- 27/03: Shopping carts full, but less choice and savings: In its research on shopping trends in Italy, Altroconsumo found spending volumes increased more than 17.8% compared to the same period last year.
- 18/05: Traveller rights: Adiconsum commented on the European Commission recommendation to uphold travellers’ right to choose between either reimbursement or a voucher.
- 08/04: Traveller rights: Adiconsum criticised the practice of reimbursement through vouchers. The organisation added that a European travel emergency fund for the travel sector is needed.
- 08/04: Unjustified price increases: Adiconsum asked the Italian government for it be involved in a remote 'round table' with the trade associations.
- 18/05: Traveller rights: LPIAA commented on the European Commission recommendation to uphold travellers’ right to choose between either reimbursement or a voucher.
- 08/05: Traveller rights: Following a proposal by the Latvian Ministry of Economics to introduce a mandatory voucher system, LPIAA expressed its opposition to a system which would unduly place a greater burden on consumers.
- 19/03: Traveller rights: LPIAA called on the Latvian government to require tour operators who wish to receive public support to make a commitment to fulfil their obligations to travellers.
- 17/04: Traveller rights: LVOA and BEUC sent a joint letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania presenting ways to solve the travel and tourism compensation deadlock.
- 14/04: Traveller rights: LVOA published an article about the presidential veto of the amendments of the Civil Code that were aimed to extend the travel compensation deadline from 14 days to 6 months. With this veto, the President took the position that the risk assumed by a business, even in an emergency situation, cannot be transferred onto the shoulders of consumers alone. This followed an appeal by LVOA and several other umbrella NGOs on the matter.
- 08/04: Mortgage and consumer credit payment suspensions: LVOA collaborated on a comprehensive position paper which was presented to policy makers on behalf of all major Lithuanian umbrella NGOs. It urged, among other things, to extend ‘credit holidays’ to at least six months (instead of the current three) in cases of loss of job or large part of income.
- 08/04: Event cancellations: LVOA issued a statement that the financial difficulties faced by event organisers provide no excuse for the violation of consumer rights: the right to a refund cannot be restricted.
- 07/04: Traveller rights: LVOA wrote that the COVID-19 crisis is forcing consumers in financial difficulties to bail out the tourism business.
- 18/03: Compliance: LVOA wrote that the COVID-19 crisis is having an increasingly negative impact on civil law.
- 27/05: Price increases: ULC called upon retailers and service providers to moderate any price increases and, if possible, to refrain from them. ULC said consumers must be spared unnecessary or unjustified price increases, as the COVID-19 pandemic should not lead to a social crisis by pushing more people and families into poverty.
- 20/04: COVID-19 exit strategy: While largely agreeing with its government's COVID-19 exit strategy, ULC pointed out some inconsistencies.
- 01/04: Validity of motor vehicle certificates: ULC requested its transport ministry to extend the validity of vehicle control certificates up to 6 months in order to protect the health of vehicle owners and technical inspectors.
- 24/03: Cash and card payments While ULC advised consumers who can pay by card to do so, it says people cannot be refused when paying by cash (as there is no legal basis for this). ULC also proposed to increase the limits on contactless payment up to a 150€.
- 15/04: Passenger rights: Ghaqda tal-Konsumaturi commented that Air Malta is showing the way forward to travel agents when it comes to consumers who due to the COVID-19 lockdown cannot make use of their booking.
- 01/04: Consumer problems during COVID-19: Ghaqda tal-Konsumaturi wrote to its ministry about problems consumers face in terms of price increases on essential products, and their package tour rights.
- 10/04: COVID-19 apps: Consumentenbond expressed support for the Dutch government's idea for a corona app, but only under 10 strict privacy conditions. Consumentenbond also intends to check the apps using its own 'privacy meter'.
- 01/04: Traveller rights: People who receive a voucher from an airline should not be left empty-handed if that airline goes bankrupt, Consumentenbond wrote to the Dutch parliament. It urged the government to act as guarantor.
- 18/03: Warning against scams: Consumentenbond warned consumers against criminals who spread computer viruses and ransomware or steal consumer data, among other things, by way of emails and text messages. There have also been attempts to defraud consumers via fake web shops or chat tricks.
- 12/05: Package tours: Forbrukerrådet expressed its disappointment at the Norwegian government maintaining a three-month deadline for repayment of cancelled package tours. This means many families will have very poor finances during the summer, Forbrukerrådet commented.
- 27/03: Consumer rights: It is very demanding for consumers to keep track of what rules apply and how they should be understood in light of the COVID-19 epidemic. Forbrukerrådet therefore said it expects the business community to respect basic consumer rights; not least those who are now receiving significant state support.
- 07/05: COVID-19 apps: DECO research found that while the Portuguese believe COVID-19 apps can help save lives, they have reservations about the privacy of their data. Geolocation is the measure that brings the greatest discomfort.
- 31/03: Supporting vulnerable energy consumers: DECO wrote a letter to Portuguese authorities and regulators to support consumers who will struggle to pay their energy bills. DECO called to extend the notice for debt collection, disconnection as well as the social tariff.
- 31/03: Bank measures are not sufficient: As the Portuguese government passed legislation to suspend payment of mortgage loans, DECO said the exclusion of consumer credit limits the effectiveness of the objective. Namely, to help families in difficulty.
- 12/03: Most, but not all, travel insurance providers pay for coronavirus expenses: In a review of travel insurance policies, DECO found five policies to exclude situations of epidemic, pandemic or infectious disease with danger to public health.
- 29/05: Energy poverty: S.O.S explained how Slovakia's new government is updating energy poverty-related legislation in times of COVID-19.
- 31/03: Open letter to energy market institutions: S.O.S. suggested to introduce a social tariff, to suspend disconnections from energy (including for meter subscriptions) and to abolish penalties for late payment.
- 27/03: Open letter to financial market institutions: S.O.S. asked its government, parliament and regulators to adopt, among others, uniform rules when it comes to deferred repayment of loans. S.O.S. also responded once its government reached an agreement on the matter, advising consumers to use the measure only in case of an extreme situation.
- 23/04: COVID-19 apps: ZPS wrote to the Slovene government on COVID-19 apps. They asked 1) for a co-ordinated EU approach to data protection, 2) for security of applications and personal data to be top priority and 3) to have realistic expectations about how data collected from mobile devices can and cannot contribute to curb the pandemic.
- 16/04: Protecting at-risk consumers on loan repayments: After its parliament adopted an act on deferral of loan payments, ZPS called for additional measures to protect borrowers in vulnerable situations. For example, the 12-month deferral should apply to all types of consumer loans provided by both banks and other lenders. ZPS also asked for the deferral to be free of charge for the borrower. And delaying the loan should not have a negative impact on a consumer's credit rating.
- 06/04: Traveller rights: ZPS and BEUC wrote to the European Commission to say that consumers should not be deprived and restricted of their right to a refund in times of crisis. Alternative solutions must be found to ensure liquidity and insolvency of tourist service providers.
- 06/04: Delayed payment of credit: ZPS supported its government's measure to defer these payments, but asked for more specificity. For example, ZPS called for a one-year freeze on interest charges.
- 08/04: Maximum prices for protection against COVID-19: CECU urged the Spanish government to fix a maximum price for masks, gloves, gels and other products, similar to the measures adopted in other European countries such as France and Greece.
- 07/04: Mortgage payment suspensions: CECU wrote to the Bank of Spain and various associations requesting to extend the term for moratoriums on mortgage and consumer loans to six months.
- 26/03: Consumer rights during COVID-19 state of emergency: CECU warned about the need to maintain the applicable rights in areas such as mortgages, rentals, travel and accommodation, cybersecurity and for vulnerable consumers in general.
- 19/05: Supply and price of face masks: OCU asked the Spanish Ministry of Consumer Affairs to set maximum prices for all types of face masks, as well as to consider helping the most economically vulnerable consumers to buy them. The consumer group also urged authorities to make sure there is sufficient supply of masks for children, as it found they are only available in 18 out of 50 pharmacies.
- 28/04: Risks of buying face masks online: OCU raised doubts about the reliability of most face masks sold through online marketplaces. They also noted a) these masks are not necessarily cheaper than those sold by pharmacies, b) there is no guarantee that the product will arrive and c) that there are long waiting times.
- 14/04: Supply and price of face masks: OCU requested the free distribution of masks in establishments and health centres. It also criticised the lack of supply, high prices and criteria for distribution that would allow all consumers to get them.
- 07/04: Mortgage payment suspensions: OCU warned that few users will be able to take advantage of the moratorium on mortgage payments, as it is difficult for users to know if they are entitled or not. It asked the Spanish government for clarity.
- 25/03: 338 euros per household lost: 30% of those surveyed by OCU in late March had already suffered losses of professional income for an average value of € 740, and a 20% loss due to travel cancellations for € 343.
- 20/03: Reporting a 'miracle cure' against the coronavirus: In a complaint to Spanish authorities, OCU warned about a company offering an essential oil that would cure the coronavirus as a hook for subscription to its magazine.
Spain, Asociación Usuarios Financieros (Asufin)
- 20/04: Mortgage payment suspensions: Asufin asked the Spanish government to simplify the processing of mortgage moratoriums.
- 15/04: 13 areas where consumers must be protected: The COVID-19 outbreak is an alarm that should lead Sweden, and the entire EU, to build a sustainable and resilient economy, Sveriges Konsumenter wrote. It listed 13 areas – from financial services to CO2 emission targets for cars – where the European Commission and national governments should take action.
- 01/04: COVID-19 and the cashless society: Sveriges Konsumenter wrote it would be very unfortunate to further limit the availability of cash due to false rumours as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 07/04: Involvement of consumer groups by authorities: FRC wrote it is monitoring the impacts of the COVID-19 on consumers and has reached out to various economic sectors to find equitable solutions. It also asked Swiss authorities to involve consumer groups in addressing the crisis.
- 26/05: Getting married: Wedding venues are potentially breaking the law by exploiting unfair terms and conditions to avoid refunding couples for cancellations due to coronavirus, Which? revealed. Of the 25 couples Which? spoke to, 20 said their wedding venue refused to offer a refund or made the process for obtaining a refund difficult. The consumer group reported 12 wedding venues and organisers to the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
- 14/05: Price gouging: Which? uncovered hundreds of listings for essential products at inflated prices sold via online marketplaces, and has found evidence that thousands of items have been sold at these rip-off rates. It found COVID-19 essentials – such as hand sanitiser or cleaning products – being sold for at least double the typical price.
- 29/04: Price gouging tool: Which? developed a simple tool for people to report coronavirus profiteering amid concerns that price-gougers are getting away with hiking the prices of essential items.
- 23/04: Online scams alert service: As criminals exploit the confusion and fear caused by the COVID-19 crisis, Which? launched a free scam alert service. It allows those who sign up to receive warnings about the latest scams as Which? uncovers them, along with information about how to spot a scam and protect themselves against falling victim to fraudsters.
- 02/04: Shortages of essential products: In a survey of more than 2,000 members of the public on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak carried out between 20th-24th March, three-quarters (76%) reported experiencing shortages of products in supermarkets, shops or online. A third (34%) said they could not find hand sanitisers while around a quarter could not find toilet rolls (27%) and rice and pasta (25%).
- 01/04: Travel insurance: Nearly half of the UK’s major insurers have pulled out of the travel insurance market since the coronavirus pandemic sparked travel chaos around the world, Which? found. It is also concerned that some insurers are potentially treating customers who have been affected by coronavirus disruption unfairly.
United Kingdom, Citizens Advice
- 01/05: Financial worries: Citizens Advice research revealed that over 13 million people in the UK have already been unable to pay, or expect to be unable to pay, at least one bill because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Of these, almost 11 million have missed or expect to miss a bill that would leave them vulnerable to severe consequences - including eviction, bailiff enforcement or disconnection - when COVID-19 financial protections end.
- 23/04: Energy poverty and Europe's housing stock: The COVID-19 pandemic raises major challenges for tackling energy poverty, wrote Citizens Advice. In the context of the STEP project (Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty), it called for immediate action to help low income consumers pay their energy bills and long-term action to improve Europe’s housing stock to ensure it is healthy and affordable to heat and power.
- 09/04: Good practice guide for energy suppliers and networks: Citizens Advice issued guidance on how energy suppliers and networks can support consumers affected by Covid-19. One example is to proactively contact prepayment customers on what to do in case of self-isolation or shielding.
- 02/04: Parcel companies support to at-risk groups: In their briefing, Citizens Advice guides parcel companies on how to support at-risk groups during the Covid-19 pandemic. They stress it is vital that contact-free parcel deliveries are accessible for disabled people and those with mobility issues.