CICLE-X project takes consumer complaints data to the next level
The new CICLE-X project wants to close the gap between consumers experiencing a problem and enforcers taking action.
The new CICLE-X project made up of Euroconsumers’ members OCU, Altroconsumo and Test Achats will build on the success of the CICLE pilot. The pilot successfully harnessed consumer data to bring two major cross-border consumer problems to enforcers in 2022 for quick resolution.
What’s stopping speedy enforcement of consumer law?
The disconnect between consumer laws on paper and an effective enforcement structure to implement them is letting consumers down and eroding trust.
At the moment, the sheer volume of consumer interactions that happen each day make it difficult to collect evidence of what is happening in the market.
We know that it’s all too common for consumers in one country to hit the same problems with the same company as consumers in another – but it is not so simple to deal with that company at a pan-European level.
CICLE-X wants to solve these dual problems of evidence and co-operation that make spotting and enforcing consumer law across the single market so challenging.
Consumer powered complaints data
At the heart of the CICLE-X solution approach is a data driven online complaints system which meets multiple needs. Firstly, it has a consumer-centered interface to make it easier to log complaints. There are also visuals to display where complaints are frequently occurring and to warn of potential issues.
Finally, back-end functionality aggregates all of this rich consumer data into a single dashboard. The dashboards pull in reports of complaints from consumers into one place, categorizing them by problem and sector. This makes spotting patterns and problems much simpler and faster for consumer organizations.
Through the first CICLE pilot, Spain’s OCU and Italy’s Altroconsumo revitalized their consumer-facing complaints platforms. They were able to quickly spot problems with Citroen’s AdBlue function and with a Samsung phone offer.
In both cases, the evidence from consumer complaint data was used to trigger an alert by consumer organizations to the relevant national consumer protection authorities via the EU wide Consumer Protection Co-operation Network.
Phase two: deeper functionality, more users
CICLE-X wants to build on the pilot’s success by improving the functionality and usability of the complaints tool. It wants to see more consumer cases identified and referred to authorities at a faster pace. It will also expand access and support to consumer organizations in other countries to do the same.
The front facing platform is a valuable resource for consumers. CICLE-X will improve the interface and information for consumers by improving the way data is presented back by:
- Ranking the companies with the most complaints
- Showing top 10 companies with the most unanswered complaints
- Providing a regularly updated list of scam companies based on consumer reports
- Highlighting monthly reports on the type of problems in each sector and company based on consumer complaint reports
Maximizing data as an asset
The project will also test out how to get the most out of the data collected via consumer complaints. A new AI based tool will be used to automate classification of complaints and cases, and more quickly detect cross-border problems and get more information on the companies involved.
There will also be new case management features added that will make communicating and organizing large-scale consumer cases much easier.
Expanding access across borders
To make sure more consumer organizations in different jurisdictions can also benefit from the complaints analysis approach, CICLE-X will launch a lighter version of the tool to which will replicate some of the key features of the online complaints dashboard by driving forward links between consumer reports and alerting the national consumer protection authorities.
Experts from OCU, Test Achats and Altroconsumo will also share learning, training and support for new consumer organization users on how to manage the platform and extract data to share with their authorities.
Online evidence: web shop reliability assessment
To better serve the general goal of improving market surveillance, CICLE-X will also carry out its own analysis of 500 online shops to develop a way to measure their quality and reliability.
The online shops will be assessed against both legal requirements and on consumer satisfaction. The consumer survey will ask for their views on prices, payment options, ease of use, delivery and after-sales services.
The legal criteria will include looking at: product information, delivery, payments and whether all the information required under consumer law like terms and conditions, refunds and complaints services are readily available to shoppers.
Both these results will feed into the final reliability score. Of course, if the legal assessment detects infringements these will be passed on to enforcement authorities.
This data will be incredibly valuable for both the CPC network and any resulting legal proceedings or company and market inquiries.
New generation of consumer data power
Euroconsumers hope that projects like CICLE-X will demonstrate the power of consumer data in bringing about swifter consumer justice.
CICLE-X will provide a strong evidence base of consumer detriment and a continuous connection to the authorities who enforce consumer law. This will help bridge the gap between consumers experiencing detriment and companies being held to account.
Improvements in the consumer data analysis will help deepen insight into problems, and signal to companies that poor practice will no longer slip under the radar. If we can flag systemic issues simultaneously across borders this will be even more significant, as companies will need to change their practice for all consumers everywhere.
The project will run from 2023 to 2026 and is part funded by the European Union (GA 1011022299). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or EISMEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.