Brexit and COVID-19 caused a sharp rise in demand for advice about in-depth consumer problems from the UK International Consumer Centre (UKICC) in the first six months of 2021, it has been revealed. Issues related to customs and unexpected delivery charges from overseas traders, as well as problems with online purchases, led to more consumers contacting the centre for advice on complex cases.
In total 4,351 UK consumers came to the centre for help and advice between January and June 2021, with a 34.2% increase in the centre’s more complex consumer cases compared to last year.
Andy Allen, Service Director at the UK International Consumer Centre, said: “Our latest data report, for the second quarter of 2021, shows there is a sustained need for the UKICC service from UK consumers.
“Overall demand for our services shows that the in-year trend for 2021 is broadly typical and reflects the seasonality of complaints received by UKICC.
“Our more time-consuming cases, where the consumer received advice from us and thoroughly attempted to resolve the case themselves without success, leading to UKICC contacting the trader on their behalf, were up significantly in the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.”
Analysis of all of the centre’s consumer cases for the first six months of 2021 show volumes broadly the same as in previous years – this despite there being little international travel, which is a common source of cases.
Allen said: “There is very little difference in the total number of cases for the first six months of 2021 compared to those of 2020. This shows that despite the fact that UK consumers have been travelling very little since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still a very real demand for our service.”
But although the centre has had a busy start to 2021, its future in 2022 is not yet guaranteed.
Allen added: “Whilst we have been assured of funding throughout 2021, no UK Government decision has yet been made as to whether there will be any funding from 2022 onwards.
“The centre plays a crucial role in the UK consumer protection landscape and we are pleased that the UK Government found a solution which has retained this valuable service for the whole of 2021.
“Our figures for the first six months of 2021 show an undisputed proof of the need for our service. It’s imperative for UK consumers that the UK International Consumer Centre continues to exist in 2022 and beyond.
“The aim of the UKICC is to help as many UK consumers to achieve as positive result as possible, whether it’s a refund, replacement, repair, or contract cancellation. We play a vital role in empowering consumers, by helping them to gain a better awareness of their rights.
“Without this service, tens of thousands of UK consumers every year will be left without support. This continued threat to our existence in 2022 could have very real consequences for UK consumers.”