CICLE digital consumer complaints tool delivers fast and timely enforcement
In January 2023 in Brussels, Euroconsumers member Test Achats hosted an event to share learning from the first phase of the CICLE project. CICLE is a two year digital complaints pilot project from Euroconsumers members OCU and Altroconsumo, part funded by the European Union’s Consumer Programme.
CICLE stands for ‘Co-operation for Improving Consumer Law Enforcement’ and the project is designed to test out how the consumer complaints data that Euroconsumers’ members gather every day online can be used to spot trends and close gaps in EU market surveillance.
CICLE data reveals consumer problems as they happen
The pilot aimed to create an up to date, regular feed of information to enforcement authorities about consumer experiences and problems on the ground. As consumer data would be coming in from different countries, the project also aimed to improve co-operation between consumer organizations across borders.
The data could also feed into the EU’s consumer law breaches mapping carried out by the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network to enhance European enforcement with consumer protection authorities.
Last month, we reported on how data in the pilot had already been used to trigger an enforcement alert against Citroen for a large number of problems identified with its AdBlue system.
Improved interfaces make complaints data collation easier
The first step in the project was to improve the way consumers currently reported complaints, by adding more functionality to existing web complaint tools. Altroconsumo site was called Reclamare Facile (“easy to complain”) and OCU’s site was called simply, Reclamar (“claim”).
The new design prompted people to input more detail and use templates to write to the companies who had opted to join the platform as a way to manage complaints. Companies could then reply via the platform.
To help channel consumers to the most useful content, an option was given to select the ‘nature of problem’ – this helped to both quantify the complaint and direct consumers to the right set of templates to take their issue further.
It was vital however, that the desire for more granular data did not detract from the consumers’ experience, the designers limited any extra effort for consumers which did not bring any direct added value to the user.
The backend of the platform was migrated to a new technology which optimized reporting and case management capabilities.
The complaint platform enabled consumers to complain online and in a public or private way against any company. The platform also included information about companies that had been reported as scam or fake companies.
Main headlines from CICLE results
At the event in January 2023, staff from Altroconsumo, Test Achats and OCU shared the results and learning from the pilot phase. The whole event is available to watch here.
76,697 complaints received in total between May and December 2022. This total only included complaints received via the web platform, our organisations also take in thousands more complaints through other channels particularly phone lines.
2 coordinated enforcement actions – one against Samsung for misleading and aggressive conduct around a phone recycling plan, one against Citroen for anomalies in its AdBlue anti-pollution system which resulted in costly repairs for consumers.
6 meetings with enforcement authorities to share results and identify enforcement priorities
Through the aggregated data, OCU and Altroconsumo were able to identify the top 20 companies with the most complaints, the top 20 companies with the highest number of unanswered complaints and the nature of problems that occurred by sector and company on a monthly basis.
In total, 36,849 complaints were not answered by brands, a figure which clearly shows where companies can and should do better.
It’s important to note that the rankings only included the companies that had joined the platforms as a way to receive complaints – it was not an exhaustive list of the complaints our organisations receive on a daily basis via other channels, which relate to many other companies.
Main problems identified in complaints data via Altroconsumo and OCU
The data showed recurrent problems across both Italy and Spain where it would make sense to coordinate common responses. For example, delivery caused major problems in the category of consumer goods, complaints about flight cancellations were high in the summer. In financial services, it was bank accounts that led to the most complaints.
Complaints distribution in Spain
Complaints distribution in Italy
The presentations were followed by a discussion with Marie-Paule Benassi, from DG JUST at the DG JUST at the European Commission and Antonio Mancini from AGCM, the Italian Competition Authority to understand how the complaints tool could be used to increase enforcement co-operation.
Euroconsumers is pleased to say that a new phase of the project called CICLE-X has been announced with funding for OCU, Altroconsumo and our Belgian member Test Achats which will continue to work on improving digital complaints data handling to map and select consumer enforcement priorities.
This project was funded by the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020)