The UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) could face closure and thousands of UK consumers could be left unprotected if an agreement between the UK Government and the EU is not made before December 31.
The centre, founded in 2007, is part of a network throughout EU member states plus Iceland and Norway offering UK consumers support with queries about companies and products purchased in those states.
In May, the UK ECC reported a surge in consumer queries directed at the centre, with Republic of Ireland-based Ryanair’s mass cancellation of flights a key catalyst for the rise. The UK ECC itself registered 5,661 consumer cases since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown on March 23.
The consumer centre network relies on cross-border cooperation with fellow ECC offices which liaise with overseas businesses on their behalf.
The centre, hosted at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), employs eleven staff in Basildon, Essex, and is joint-funded by the UK Government and the European Union; however, the Brexit negotiation phase has created uncertainty about the future of the centre with funding from the EU likely to be removed at a time that demand for the service seems to be rising.
Andy Allen, Service Director at UK ECC, said: “UK ECC is the only service of its type available to UK consumers. For 13 years, we have helped many hundreds of thousands of consumers, and we will continue assisting them throughout 2020.
“I ask that the UK Government understand the critical role UK ECC performs in the UK consumer protection landscape and works out a solution which retains this valuable service during the negotiations.”
Consumers should contact the UK ECC with any queries by emailing the centre at email@example.com