Today, the European Commission has published the results of the 2023 Consumer Conditions Scoreboard, a survey on consumption habits in the EU Member States, as well as in Iceland and Norway. The data shows that almost half of consumers (48%) were worried about being able to pay their bills, and a large majority (71%) took measures to reduce their energy consumption at home. In addition, the vast majority of consumers also expressed concerns about their safety online, particularly, 94% said that they were worried about online targeted advertising.
Main findings of the 2023 Consumer Conditions Scoreboard
- 48% of respondents expressed concern about their ability to pay their bills, including mortgages and transport to work. More than a third reported that they dipped into their savings (37%) and one in ten saw an increase in their mortgages, notably due to variable interests rates.
- In response to energy price hikes, more than half of consumers report that they have changed their habits, be it to save energy at home (71%), by using public subsidies for energy efficiency measures and/or by changing their use of transport (28%).
- Although the vast majority of consumers believe that they should personally do more to contribute to the green transition and tackling climate change, they were split in terms of the extent to which the environmental impact of goods and services influenced their choices: 43% declared that they were not at all influenced by environmental concerns in their purchasing decisions. There are also big variations between sectors, with cars topping the list in terms of the importance of environmental impact consumers felt when making a choice (81%). In addition, fewer consumers expressed their beliefs in the reliability of environmental claims than in 2020 (-5 pp), which could be attributed to a higher level of awareness about greenwashing.
- As e-commerce sales grow year on year, consumers are increasingly exposed to frequent unfair practices online. The three most frequently reported practices were: personally targeted online advertising (76%), hidden advertising in search results (75%) and disingenuous consumer reviews (69%). With regards to online advertising in particular, 94% expressed concerns about it, with 70% worried about inappropriate use and sharing of personal data, 66% about the collection of online data and related profiling without explicit knowledge or agreement and 57% about cookies’ installation.
The results will be discussed amongst participants at the Commission’s annual Consumer Summit tomorrow, hosted by Commissioner Reynders. More than 400 participants, including the EU ministers from the Member States of the current and upcoming Council Presidencies (Sweden, Spain, Belgium and Hungary), will hold discussions on consumer protection during crises, the achievements under the New Consumer Agenda and the future of EU consumer policy, including on how to better address digital challenges.
The Consumer Conditions Scoreboard is a biennial reporting exercise to monitor consumer sentiment across the EU, as well as in Iceland and Norway. It collects data on national conditions for consumers with regards to knowledge and trust, compliance and enforcement and complaints and dispute resolution.
The data for this year’s report was gathered through surveys carried out in October and November 2022 around topical themes, including consumer habits during crises, as well as regarding the green and digital transitions.
Since the summer of 2021, energy prices have seen unprecedented spikes and volatility, especially following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This has had a severe impact on EU households and the economy. To mitigate the effect of these market dynamics, the Commission has proposed and Member States have agreed to a wide range of emergency measures to tackle high energy prices and mitigate their impact on consumers. In the Communication ‘Tackling rising energy prices: a toolbox for action and support‘, the Commission first clarified which measures at national level, such as income support and regulated prices, were possible under existing EU law. The toolbox was then updated in Spring 2022, when the Commission also presented the REPowerEU Plan, for the EU to regain its energy independence and get rid of Russian fossil fuel imports as soon as possible. Throughout 2022, the EU has then introduced measures on gas storage, coordinated gas demand reduction, a gas market correction mechanism as well as an emergency intervention to address high energy prices by reducing electricity demand and redistributing windfall profits from the energy sector to consumers, among others. More recently, on 14 March, the Commission proposed to reform the EU’s electricity market design. A key objective of the reform is to enhance the protection of consumers from volatile prices and to empower them with greater contract choice, as well as more direct access to renewable energy, with extra protection envisioned for the most vulnerable consumers. More information on actions and measures on energy prices is available here.
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2022 was a very difficult year for EU consumers given the fallout from the Russian aggression against Ukraine, in particular with high energy prices and inflation more generally. We have recently put forward several measures to ensure that consumers are protected against unfair market practices and new potential price rises, with a special focus also on the protection of vulnerable consumers. I am also concerned that consumers continue to express worries about their safety and protection online. This confirms the need to make sure that EU consumer law is fit for purpose in the digital era, and that platforms need to play by the rules.