The Government has announced that it will fund the UK International Consumer Centre (UKICC) for at least another year, meaning UK consumers will continue to have access to a critical service that provides them redress in the event of a purchase being made abroad going wrong.
The UKICC, formerly the UK ECC, was previously funded in part by the EU, but since the UK’s departure from the EU it has been funded solely by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and its future was only assured until the end of last month (March 2022). Now BEIS has confirmed the funding pledge for the next 12 months.
UKICC Service Director, Andy Allen, said: “UKICC is a vital tool in UK consumers’ armoury when they need to resolve disputes with traders based abroad. We play a critical role in the UK consumer protection landscape.
“A particularly important example of this is that it received a record number of enquiries in 48 hours in April 2020 – at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – from 1,000 UK consumers seeking its expertise and advice in relation to airline flight cancellations.
“The fact that we have received news that the UK Government will continue to fund us at least until the end of March 2023 is fantastic news for all UK consumers. The message from the UK International Consumer Centre as it celebrates the news of its assured future until the end of March 2023 is: ‘We’re still here, we’re still helping and we’re still free’.”
Lord Lindsay, President of CTSI, which hosts the UKICC, said: “The UKICC is unique in that it helps UK consumers when they’ve got problems as a result of purchases outside the UK. Since it was formed in 2007, the centre has handled more than 150,000 cases of problem purchases for UK consumers – that’s a huge number of UK consumers who would be floundering if it wasn’t for the UKICC.
“Even though the UK has left the EU, the UKICC is still consistently dealing with large number of cases from UK consumers in dispute with EU traders. Many people are resuming their travel plans now that the COVID-19 restrictions have been cut and so we expect UK consumers to continue to need the help of the UKICC well into the future.
“With the challenges after Brexit, COVID-19 recovery and new markets being explored, we thank Her Majesty’s Government for recognising that UK consumers need the help of the UKICC. Consumers need to be confident and feel protected in taking the opportunities created by trade with the EU and non-EU consumer markets as they open up and this announcement will help that.”
CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “The UKICC is growing its partnerships with consumer organisations all over the world and now has a range of case-sharing arrangements with 10 non-EU countries. It is working hard to grow this part of its work, with discussions going on with other countries including Australia and Bangladesh.
“The UK is striving to capitalise on the huge potential generated by strengthening and growing trade with other countries. As the UK market effectively opens up to more countries and as more and more international trade deals are done, the UKICC wants to bring benefits for UK consumers shopping in those countries by providing advice and support on their problems with traders. We want to ensure that UK consumers are protected wherever they purchase products from and we are very proud of our record of getting successful outcomes for consumers, and this is something the Government recognises.”