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Classifying and reporting consumer complaints

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Classifying and reporting consumer complaints



Communication (COM(2009) 346 final) on a harmonised methodology for classifying and reporting consumer complaints and enquiries


  • It sets out the benefits of harmonising the classifying and reporting of consumer* complaints* throughout the European Union (EU). These are considered a key indicator of whether the single market is working or not.
  • It recommends a harmonised voluntary methodology.


  • The harmonised methodology is based on the following principles:
    • the data should be comparable with other data sets, such as consumer satisfaction, from the consumer markets scoreboard;
    • it should be based on the UN’s classification of individual consumption by purpose;
    • it should allow a seamless transition from existing classifications to the new harmonised model;
    • implementation costs should be minimised and acceptable to consumer complaint bodies;
    • it can be adapted as markets evolve.
  • The methodology contains 3 sections:
    • general information about the complaint;
    • sectoral information about the complaint;
    • information about the type of complaint.

The communication was followed in 2010 by a recommendation from the European Commission on the use of the harmonised methodology for classifying and reporting consumer complaints and enquiries*.

  • The recommendation sets out:
    • the data that complaint handling bodies should collect and register;
    • the way the data should be processed and reported.
  • The Commission uses various methods to monitor markets and consumer conditions and behaviour. These include:
    • surveys of consumers’ and retailers’ attitudes to cross-border trade used by the Commission to monitor the integration of the single market from the consumer’s point of view, as well as consumer conditions in EU countries; these surveys are used for preparing consumer scoreboards;
    • consumer market monitoring surveys which focus on the ease of comparing goods and services offered, consumers’ trust in retailers and suppliers, problems that consumers experience and consumer satisfaction. These are the basis for preparing the consumer scoreboards which track the performance of more than 40 consumer goods and services markets;
    • detailed studies on specific consumer issues, (e.g. a study of the impact of marketing through social media, online games and mobile applications on children’s behaviour);
    • financial support to establish or improve IT systems used to send the harmonised data on complaints to the Commission.
  • The Consumer Complaints Expert Group is a network set up to assist the implementation of the Commission’s recommendation on the use of the harmonised methodology. The group advises on issues relating to the implementation of the methodology and on other issues that might arise in connection with the recommendation.


  • The value of harmonising complaint classifications at EU level is considerable, whether for EU and national regulators, consumer organisations or EU consumers themselves.
  • The data are directly comparable across the EU resulting in a faster and better-targeted response by authorities to consumers’ problems, based on this evidence, whether at EU or national level. The data collected enable national authorities and regulators to respond better to emerging trends, give a more complete picture of their markets, and allow easier comparisons with other countries.

For more information, see:


Consumer: an individual person not acting in the course of their trade, business, craft or profession

Consumer complaint: a statement of dissatisfaction with a specific trader by a consumer to a complaint handling body

Consumer enquiry: a request for information or advice, other than a complaint, by a consumer to a complaint handling body


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a harmonised methodology for classifying and reporting consumer complaints and enquiries (COM(2009) 346 final, 7.7.2009)


Commission Recommendation of 12.5.2010 on the use of a harmonised methodology for classifying and reporting consumer complaints and enquiries (C(2010) 3021 final)

last update 25.08.2016