New site helps you avoid cowboys abroadFree service helps you find decent traders in EU

31 December 2009

Builder walking along with a wheelbarrow

A new website and helpline aim to help you find reputable companies when you're choosing a service based in another EU country.

The European Consumer Centre for Services (ECCS) is a website and phone service that give information on trade associations in other EU states, plus your rights when you buy a service abroad.

So if you're looking for, say, a car hire company or a builder, it can help you avoid the local cowboys.

Services abroad

The services covered include:

  • hotels, timeshares and car hire
  • construction services such as architects, builders, electricians, and plumbers
  • estate agents and letting agents
  • language schools and other private education providers
  • accountancy services and lawyers.

The idea is to make it easier for UK consumers to use services that are based abroad - whether they use the service in the country concerned, or use the service in the UK.

However, a plumber, say, based in France or Ireland would have to meet UK requirements such as being on the Gas Safe Register before being allowed to do work here.

Which? Local

To find great tradespeople who are based in the UK, check out the Which? Local website. The site lists thousands of traders who've been used by Which? members who recommended their service. The site is free for Which? members to access.

On Which? Local, you can put in your postcode to find out about services local to you that have been recommended by Which? members.

ECCS helpline

For those who want advice on traders abroad, the ECCS helpline - 0845 608 94 94 - is open Monday to Friday 10am to 3pm, but is closed on public holidays.

The new service was set up as a requirement of a new directive which came into force this month.

Chris Warner, a lawyer at Which?, said: 'At the moment, it's incredibly complicated for consumers to know their rights when buying across borders, so we welcome a service that will help people be better informed.' 

The service is being run by the Trading Standards Institute, which also runs the European Consumer Centre (ECC). This can help if you've bought goods or services from another EU country and something's gone wrong.

Both services offer advice on rights when buying from another country in the European Economic Area – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

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