Given the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic, Euroconsumers’ member organisations (Altroconsumo - Italy, OCU - Spain, DECO Proteste - Portugal, Proteste - Brazil, Test Achats/Test Aankoop - Belgium) are taking action in their respective countries. Follow them here:
Europe: European Commission's Travel Package
Euroconsumers welcomes the EU Commission’s “travel package” as an effective way of boosting tourism while safeguarding consumer rights. The Commission is encouraging the issuing of travel vouchers provided these are voluntary and insolvency protected. Our member organisations in Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain are ready to work with national authorities and businesses to develop recovery strategies for the tourism sector which do not compromise consumer rights. “We are glad to learn that the Commission’s thinking is in line with our recommendations published ahead of the Tourism Council on 28th April. Our member organisations will immediately get to work with public authorities, businesses and leading experts to ensure that the travel sector can recover from the coronavirus pandemic without violating consumer rights. Consumers are the backbone of the modern economy and must be at the heart of all COVID-19 exit strategies. ” Ivo Mechels CEO of Euroconsumers
Spain- OCU: sales
OCU has asked the Spanish government to clarify its stance on whether businesses can offer discounts on their products during the state of alarm. The Health Ministry’s Order from 9 May is unclear and lends itself to many different interpretations. OCU reminds Spanish authorities that promotional sales can only take place if consumer safety is guaranteed. For more information click here.
Spain - OCU: masks
Our Spanish member warns that FFP2 and FFP3 masks that feature valves should be avoided as these only protect those who wear them and not everyone else. Instead, OCU recommends hygienic or surgical masks, which are more effective at preventing the spread of the virus. In addition, our Spanish member warns that people with chronic pathologies, immunosuppressed and those who care for infected people at home should use FPP2 or FFP3 masks without valves. For more information click here
Spain - OCU: False advertising
According to our Spanish member, there are no food supplements that prevent, treat or cure the Coronavirus infection and, hence, there should not be any product on the market advertised as such. In light of this, OCU has developed a set of tips concerning nutrition during the coronavirus crisis. These include maintaining a balanced diet and consulting healthcare specialists before buying nutrition supplements. For more information click here.
Belgium - Test achat: Masks
Belgium’s government has announced its exit strategy for the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks will be the cornerstone of the Belgian plan. In light of this, Test-Achats has advised the government to take some necessary measures regarding the production of masks. The Belgian government must guarantee the free availability of at least five reusable and washable masks per citizen. The government must also put in place an effective campaign to educate the public on the correct uses of protective gear. Finally, our Belgian member calls on the government to set a maximum price for masks, so as to prevent businesses from engaging in exploitative practices.
Spain - OCU welcomes decision taken by the Bank of Spain regarding claims processing
OCU welcomes the Bank of Spain’s decision to relaunch its claims management system, which had been interrupted by the state of alarm. Nonetheless, OCU notes that in Spain claims disputes are handled exclusively in front of a judge. According to our Spanish member, this is unacceptable. Many EU countries have put in place systems which allow citizens an effective claims processing mechanism outside the courtroom. For more information: click here.
Belgium - Test Achat: Fundraising
Earlier this month, Test Achat donated €25 000 to the Baudouin Foundation's Fund for Solidarity Care and launched a new campaign, #EnsembleSolidaires. Two weeks later, we raised nearly €270,000 for the health care workers who are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic on a daily basis. The money will be used to address urgent short-term financial needs, or will be allocated to initiatives that support the entire sector. For medium-term initiatives, the projects will contribute to ensuring sustainable post-crisis care and will be evaluated by a pluralist, multidisciplinary jury of experts. Read more here (NL) and here (FR)
Spain - OCU: Survey shows changes in consumer behaviour during pandemic
OCU’s recently published survey shows that Spanish consumers are spending more during the COVID pandemic. Indeed, 37% of respondents reported that they have started to eat more. Meanwhile, consumers are shopping less frequently and are wasting less food. In light of this, our Spanish member has compiled a list of recommendations to help consumers maintain a healthy diet during the coronavirus crisis. For more information: click here.
Spain - OCU: Warning against fraudulent masks available on e-Commerce platforms
OCU warns consumers of the dubious quality of most masks available on online platforms such as Amazon, Aliexpress or eBay. Moreover, according to our Spanish members, these masks are typically more expensive than those found in traditional pharmacies. Hence, OCU recommends all consumers to purchase their masks from their local pharmacies and to follow the guidelines of national health organisations. For more information: click here.
Belgium - Test Achat: Abuses
In the past few weeks there has been a sharp increase in the demand for specific health products such as mouth masks and disinfectant grips. Consumers are worried about the COVID-19 crisis and want to protect themselves against the risk of contamination. Unfortunately, some companies are exploiting the pandemic to artificially raise prices, which is unacceptable. Consumers are invited to inform us via www.test-achats.be/stopabuscorona or www.test-aankoop.be/stopcoronamisbruik and give us the opportunity to take the appropriate steps by providing authorities with a list of suspicious websites.
Spain - OCU: Electricity
Confinement is directly impacting household electricity consumption which rose by 28% in Spain. And while it is true that the increase in demand has been counterbalanced by falling prices, most consumers cannot take advantage of this due to fixed fee electricity plans. According to our Spanish members, confinement can be a good opportunity to review the currently contracted rate. For more information: click here.
Spain - OCU: Fraudulent COVID-19 tests
OCU warns consumers against the dangers of fraudulent COVID-19 tests found online. Our Spanish member reminds all consumers that the only trustworthy coronavirus tests are those endorsed by the national health authorities. Nevertheless, calls on the government to make tests available for widespread use as soon as possible: For more information: click here.
Belgium - Test Achat: Coronahubs
One month after setting up our free telephone lines, Test-Achat has already received almost 9,000 calls. 5,200 by telephone (90 %) and e-mail (10 %) and almost 3,700 via social media. The number of telephone calls handled increased by 30 % compared to a normal period. The most common questions are, unsurprisingly, about travel (22%) and airlines (37%). Many questions also concern energy (22 %), in particular the new applicable fares for gas, electricity, and also heating oil. Many also asked for advice on investments (10 %).
Belgium Test-Achat : Prices
When the COVID-19 crisis began and lockdown measures were announced, consumers initially started hoarding goods at their local shops. In response , the government decided on 19 March to ban all promotions in supermarkets. Following this decision, Test-Achat noted an increase in prices of over 6% relative to pre-COVID levels. On the 30th March, promotions were reinstated, yet we have only noticed a small decrease in price. Read more here (NL) and here (FR)
Spain - OCU: Mortgage
On 7 April, OCU denounced the Spanish government’s mortgage moratorium. According to OCU, most consumers will likely not be eligible for the moratorium. More alarmingly, OCU notes that the procedure to find out whether one is eligible in the first place is extremely difficult. As a result, our Spanish member fears that many consumers will incur unnecessary costs. For more information: click here.
Belgium - Test Achats/Test Aankoop : Cancellation (Airlines)
On the 31st of March, Test Achats sent a notice of default to several airline companies urging them to respect consumer rights. Indeed, several airlines such as TAP Airlines, Air France, KLM or Transavia are forcing customers to accept vouchers as compensation for their cancelled flight. These airlines do this despite the fact that the law clearly states that consumers are entitled to a full refund were they to choose so. Moreover, TestAchat has also asked for airline companies to be more transparent on their websites. Indeed, airlines such as Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa or EasyJet often make it impossible for consumers to access important information on their websites. Read more here (FR) and here (NL)
Belgium - Test Achats/Test Aankoop : Price
These past few weeks we have seen a sharp rise in the demand for certain health products such as mouth masks and disinfectant grips. After all, consumers are worried about contracting COVID-19 and, thus, want to protect themselves. Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the fear of many consumers by raising prices and engaging in dubious marketing strategies. Test Achats would like to invite all Belgium consumers to share their experiences with such practices via this form (FR) or here (NL). With your help, we can take the appropriate steps to ensure that these companies are held accountable.
Spain - OCU: Price monitoring
The COVID-19 pandemic is scaring entire communities across the world. As a result, OCU suspects that some companies will be tempted to profit from this situation by raising the price of critical goods. OCU is currently tracking the price of a basket of 25 goods (which includes mainly food and hygiene products) to make sure that this does not happen. Fortunately, we are happy to inform you that, as of the 31st of March, prices have not risen. Moreover, OCU asks Spanish consumers to contact them if they come across an unusual increase in price.
Spain- OCU: TELECOM
OCU considers that mobile portability, which had been restricted by the Spanish government on the 17th of March, should be restored. Indeed, given the lockdown and the increase in teleworking, the use of telecommunications is rapidly growing. As such, consumers should have the right to change mobile plans provided that installation does not require the physical presence of technicians at homes. For more information: click here
Euroconsumers - Consumer perspective
On 26 March, we released the results of our coronavirus survey, carried out between the 18th and 20th of March. Our research was conducted in all of our EU member countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal and Belgium). Our findings reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly becoming a financial, physical and psychological burden for consumers throughout Europe. As a result, we have called on the EU institutions to step and to show us the true meaning of European solidarity. For more information: click here
Spain - OCU - Fake news
On 25 March, our Spanish members exposed 10 of the most prevalent fake news about the coronavirus. Among these include the notion that COVID-19 spreads less quickly in warmer climates, that antibiotics prevent contagion or that flu vaccines provide immunity. For more information: click here
Belgium Test Achats/Test Aankoop - Travel cancellations
On 25 March, our Belgian member sent out a letter to the Belgian Minister for Consumer Affairs and Economy highlighting our dissatisfaction concerning the government’s measures regarding cancellations and delays of travels and events as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Indeed, the government’s plan did not sufficiently protect consumers as it forced them to prove their unavailability in order to qualify for a refund. Thankfully, EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection heard our concerns and has said that EU law should take precedence over the Belgian decree. Indeed, consumer rights should be restored. For more information: click here
20th of March
Belgium- Test Achats/Test Aankoop - Subscription-based services
On 20 March, our Belgian member sent a letter to the Belgian Minister for Consumer Affairs and Economy calling on the government to take action with respect to subscription-based services affected by COVID-19. Indeed many consumers find themselves forced to pay for services they cannot enjoy. As such, we ask companies to suspend these, and reimburse customers whenever possible. For more information: click here
Spain - OCU : Tips
On 20 March, OCU launched five tips to mitigate COVID-19 risks when shopping in supermarkets. According to our experts, shopping trolleys and door handles on fridges are the most likely objects to be contaminated. As a result, consumers should wear gloves while shopping. If possible, citizens should use their own bags (ideally their own trolleys). OCU also calls on consumers to maintain a safe distance when shopping, and to avoid using notes and coins. Read the tips here
Spain - OCU : Denouncing ‘miracle’ cures
On 20 March, OCU denounced Spanish company Ediciones de Salud, Nutrición y Bienestar, S.L for claiming to provide an oil that cures coronavirus. The company is offering the oil as part of a promotion to get customers to subscribe to their services. OCU has submitted a complaint to the Spanish Agency for Medicine and Sanitary Products (AEMPS). Our Spanish member strongly recommended consumers to be wary of false advertising related to COVID-19 online. Read their press release here
19th of March
Belgium- Test Achats/Test Aankoop - Finance
On 19 March, our Belgian member sent a letter to the Belgian Prime Minister, the Minister for Consumer Affairs and Economy and Febelfin (the Belgian federation of banks) calling for the baking system to be more flexible towards families struggling due to the coronavirus outbreak. Test Achats is asking banks to not to charge any arrangement fees and no reinvestment penalties (as is the case in Italy). Belgian consumers already pay, on average, 13x more on notarial charges. This is unacceptable, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. For more information: click here
18th of March
Belgium - Test Achat/ Test Aankoop: Cancellations
The COVID-19 outbreak has forced many people to cancel their arrangements. In order to limit the financial burden on the travel industry, the Belgium government is drafting a new law forcing consumers to accept vouchers to reschedule their trips. Test Achat regrets not having been consulted during the drafting of the law. Indeed, consumers should have the right to be fully reimbursed. Other measures to lift the burden on the industry should be considered such as allowing companies to pay the reimbursements in installments. Read Test Achat full list of recommendations here (FR) or here (NL)
17th of March
Portugal - Deco Proteste: Coronavirus hub
Deco Proteste launched their COVID19 portal; a special section on their website dedicated to all the questions related to the outbreak. It will ensure that Portuguese consumers have a one-stop-shop to gather all the information they need; medical, legal and financial advice, or even tips on staying healthy through the quarantine. Visit the portal here
16th of March
Belgium - Test Achat/Test Aankoop: FAQs
On the 16th of March, Test Achat/Test Aankoop launched their ‘Coronavirus hub’: a dedicated tool for consumers to acquire legal and practical advice regarding the coronavirus epidemic. Our Belgian organisation made available a FAQs section on their website focusing on the economical and legal dimensions of the outbreak. Additionally, they have opened a hotline for all Belgian citizens to call for free should they need legal or practical advice regarding the COVID-19 epidemic and its consequences. Visit their page here (FR) and here (NL). Phone number: 0800 29 510 (Belgium)
Spain - OCU: Lockdown - Psychological effects
On the 16th of March, OCU unveiled its 10 tips to help citizens cope with the psychological effects caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Indeed, following the declaration of a state of emergency in Spain on the 14th of March, the Spanish population is beginning to suffer the psychological consequences of home confinement and social isolation. As such, OCU has made available a series of tips to support the Spanish people in these difficult times. Click here for more information.
Brazil - Proteste: Advice
The situation in Brazil began to deteriorate over the weekend. All restaurants and shops are closed in Rio, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte and people are advised to stay at home. Proteste representatives are supporting and advising consumers through the outbreak and you can follow them on their radio shows and TV to be updated with the latest advice. Watch them here.
13th of March
Italy - Altroconsumo: Crowdfunding
Altroconsumo set up a crowdfunding campaign to help the Niguarda hospital in Milan. During these exceptional times, Altroconsumo is committed to supporting the healthcare system with concrete measures and has already donated €100,000 to the Milanese hospital. Find out more and donate here.
Italy - Altroconsumo: Cancellations
Altroconsumo set up an online assistance system for the purpose of advising consumers on how to recoup costs due to COVID-19 cancellations. From school fees, unused train tickets and season gym passes, the coronavirus has rendered many purchases by Italian citizens obsolete. As such, Altroconsumo has made available all of its experts, from lawyers to consultants, to advise consumers on how to obtain reimbursements or postpone future payments. Find out more here
Belgium - Test Achat/Test Aankoop: Telecommunication
Following the Belgian government's latest recommendations, most citizens have decided to stay home and are beginning to work remotely. In light of this, on the 13th of March, Test-Achat reached out to several telecommunications providers and urged them to show digital solidarity with struggling workers. We asked them to be flexible with data limits. As a result, today we can confirm that most providers have agreed to show some leniency in their terms and conditions. Find out more here.