European cross-border travel and tourism - Learning from consumer experiences and complaints

Travelling within Europe is not always easy, according to ANEC research study on complaints related to European cross-border travel and tourism carried out. In our survey of almost 6000 consumers, more than a quarter reported having problems when using cross-border tourism services within Europe. Car rental was seen as the most problematic area with almost one-quarter of users reporting a negative experience. People travelling by plane and train, and going on package holidays, also experienced a high level of problems, despite EU regulation in these areas.

Following the results of this investigation, ANEC developed a position paper ‘How can we make travel in the EU better for consumers?’ including recommendations for policy makers and standardisers on services aspects aside safety: for example on the need for better awareness and enforcement of travellers’ rights, clear (pre-contractual) information provision, improved complaints handling, more clarity on liability of service providers (possibly through recently revised package travel directive).

ANEC position paper was shared with CEN Strategic Advisory Group on Services (SAGS) as input to the implementation of the mandate on horizontal services standardisation. M/517. We also sent it in 2014 to DG ENTR in reaction to their consultations on the future on EU tourism and possible administrative burden for tourism industry. Moreover, our position paper was useful in the response to DG SANCO consultation on false hotel reviews online.

Furthermore the key facts of the study have been turned into a leaflet and published on ANEC website and circulated to the network.

ANEC presented the study results at the European Tourism Day (ETD) 2014 that served as an occasion for the Commission to collect tourism stakeholders’ views on European tourism promotion, challenges related to digital tourism, streamlining the regulatory and administrative framework and the feasibility of a quality initiative. ANEC also shared the findings at ISO level in ISO Technical Committee 228 on ‘Tourism and related services’. The ISO TC 228 autumn Newsletter featured an interview with ANEC. ANEC was invited also in 2015 to present the study results and the position on how to improve the travel experience for European consumers in further European fora.

Requirements on Lighting (Light Intensity) and Reflectors of Bicycles

Lights and reflectors enhancing the visibility of bicycles are not harmonized in Member States. Thus, in 2012, ANEC commissioned the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) to carry out a study, which has shown that there is sparse information or research on cycling accidents, safety and bicycle lighting. The report 'Requirements on Lighting (Light Intensity) and Reflectors of Bicycles' did find that many cyclists do not have functioning lights during times of darkness. Although there are often absolutely more accidents/casualties during the day, it is suspected that there will be relatively more accidents/casualties at night, however exposure figures are necessary in order to say conclusively. One known study that takes into account exposure figures came from the Netherlands which did conclude that cycling was relatively more dangerous at night. However this was based on a country with a very high cycling modal share (25-35%) and could not be said to be representative of Europe. Confounding figures such as alcohol could also play a large part in night time accidents. Road safety and use of bicycle lighting in the EU are inconclusively linked.

In 2013, ANEC started participation in the meetings of ISO TC 149 SC 1 ‘Cycles and major sub-assemblies’, WG 9 ‘Revision ISO 4210 and ISO 8098’, WG 10 ‘Lighting and retro-reflective devices’ and WG 11 ‘Revision of ISO 11243-Luggage carriers’ to follow and contribute to the revision of the standards. The ANEC R&T study on bicycle lights and reflectors has been used for advocating the inclusion of lights and reflectors in the revised standards and also on commenting on ISO 6742 ‘Cycles - Lighting and retro-reflective devices’. ANEC is satisfied with the outcome as the EN ISO 4210 ‘Cycles -- Safety requirements for bicycles’ standard includes reflectors and active lighting and the new EN ISO 8098 ‘Cycles — Safety requirements for bicycles for young children’ includes reflectors, however, active lighting was not included as the bicycles covered in EN ISO 8098 are for children aged from 4 to 8 years and therefore not intended to be ridden on public roads. Additionally the draft standard ISO 6742 includes requirements for “to be seen light” as requested by ANEC. Publication of ISO 6742 series is expected beginning of 2015. Publication as EN is still under discussion.

Child restraint systems (CRS)

Injuries to children can be significantly reduced if they use a suitable child restraint.

Until July 2013, all child restraint systems (CRS) on the market had to comply with regulation UN-ECE R44. This regulation does not have side impact test, allows forward facing transport of children from 9 kg on and is difficult to understand as classification is based on the mass of the child and characteristics of the car it is placed in (clarification: checking of vehicle lists for semi-universal, space requirements etc.). Further concerns for ANEC were the use of a child’s weight to determine classification and the classification of CRS into (semi)universal, vehicle specific, belts or ISOFIX. Consumers require clearer and less ambiguous information if CRS are to be used properly.

ANEC, representing consumers under the umbrella of Consumers International (CI) at the World Forum for the Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP 29) of UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) and France made a proposal to set an informal group on child restraint systems to work on a new regulation (i-size regulation) in 2007.

The results of the ANEC R&T study 2007 to evaluate the limits of protection offered by both forward and rearward-facing restraints for children up to four years of age was presented to the informal group on CRS. The ANEC study concluded that the rearward-facing restraints offer a higher level of safety over forward-facing restraints to children until they are four years of age.

ANEC has been actively involved in the development of the new i-size regulation (Regulation 129), which came into force on 9 July 2013, advocating that ANEC’s view on rearward facing is reflected and the new regulation includes accessible classification for consumers as well as side impact protection and a support leg. The abbreviation CRS was replaced by E(nhanced)CRS when related to R129 seats.

ANEC is pleased with the adoption of the new I-size Regulation at the 158th session of UNECE WP 29 in November 2012. The new i-size regulation will reduces misuse; requires rearward-facing transport until the child is 15 months of age; be is based on a simplified classification based on stature of the child, not mass; provides side impact protection and have has a better compatibility car-CRS.

In the meantime, work was completed also on phase 2 of R 129 covering non-integral CRS and will be implemented as of mid 2017.

Currently the Informal group on CRS continues to work on phase 3.

Environmental and health related criteria for buildings

Following a mandate from the European Commission, CEN/TC 350 “Sustainability of construction works” is tasked with developing standards for the sustainability assessment of buildings and building products. ANEC has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the way this work has been developed and stressed that the published standards will be of limited use, not only in B2C transactions but also for other purposes, such as public procurement. The need for an alternative approach with meaningful assessment methods for the sustainability of buildings became apparent. We have submitted detailed proposals for modifications to the approach that have been rejected on the whole. Despite the unproven value of this work, a further set of criteria for buildings has been developed under the European Green Public Procurement (GPP) initiative.

According to several past ANEC research projects on environmental product information, it has become clear that indicators based on life-cycle assessment (LCA) methodology may not be the best means to characterise and declare the environmental performance of a product. In many cases, significant production or use-phase indicators (e.g. energy efficiency, indoor emissions) derived from a variety of tools (e.g. chemical risk assessment) are a better choice for product labeling and differentiation among similar products compared with LCA indicators. The purpose of the 2011 ANEC Environment study was to develop a set of environmental indicators, and corresponding minimum and excellence criteria, primarily for new residential buildings. The scope included provision of information to consumers on ways to achieve energy savings, for example.

The study results were released in September 2011 together with an ANEC position paper “Sustainable construction – a building site without end. Alternatives to flawed standards”. ANEC called for decision makers to urgently initiate a broad debate including all interested parties in order to work together and develop a stringent European concept for sustainability issues in the construction area.

ANEC is very pleased that the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) took the ANEC study into account when drafting the EMAS Reference Document for the Construction Sector (EMAS Article 46.1.). Indeed, the Reference document on ‘Best Environmental Management practice in the building and construction sector’ took into account the major findings of the ANEC Study on “Environmental and health related criteria for buildings" (ANEC-R&T-2011-ENV-001final).

Child protective products

Young children have a natural curiosity and do not always understand the presence of danger. Hence it is often necessary to take measures to protect children from hazards. Many products sold on the European market are intended to be mounted to another product in order to protect children, i.e. a child protective locking device mounted to a window in order to prevent children from opening the window and falling. In 2003, ANEC commissioned a research project to develop proposals for safety requirements and test methods for locking devices for windows, socket protectors, locking devices for drawers and cupboards, and hob guards. Requirements and test method are needed to verify the properties of the products that are supposed to protect young children.

In 2007, CEN/BT WG 184 was set up to review the proposed specifications for child protective products, including existing European and national standards, based on the results of the ANEC study. In March 2009, after the approval of its final report, the CEN Technical Board (CEN/BT) decided to create a new Project Committee CEN/TC 398 ‘Project Committee - Child Protective Products’ to deal with the elaboration of European standards for several child protective products. In June 2009, the Commission’s General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) Committee unanimously adopted draft safety requirements for window locking devices, based on the ANEC research study on child protective products.

In 2010, a standardization mandate (Mandate M/465) issued by the European Commission to CEN for the elaboration of standards on consumer-mounted child-proof locking devices for windows and balcony doors, based on the ANEC research and report, was approved. The work to establish the new standard was allocated to CEN PC 398 ‘Project Committee - Child Protective Products’ where ANEC actively participates.

In 2011, prEN 16281 ‘Child protective products - Consumer fitted child resistant locking devices for windows and balcony doors - Safety requirements and test methods’ was out for enquiry. ANEC supported the draft standard for consumer mounted window locking devices, developed by CEN PC 398 "Child protective products", as it is based, inter alia, on the results of the ANEC research project.

In addition, FprEN 13126-5 "Building hardware - Hardware for windows and door height windows - Requirements and test methods - Part 5: Devices that restrict the opening of windows and door height windows" was also sent out for Formal Vote in 2011. CEN TC 33 WG3 TG13 "Building hardware" started to work on a standard for integral window locking devices following the ANEC research project on child protective products.

EN16281 ‘Child protective products - Consumer fitted child resistant locking devices for windows and balcony doors - Safety requirements and test methods’, developed by CEN PC 398, and based, inter alia, on the results of the ANEC research project, was adopted in 2012.

In addition, CEN TC 33 WG3 TG13 "Building hardware" started to work on a standard for integral window locking devices following the ANEC research project on child protective products. EN 13126-5 "Building hardware - Hardware for windows and door height windows - Requirements and test methods - Part 5: Devices that restrict the opening of windows and door height windows" was published in November 2011, following active ANEC participation.

In 2012, CEN PC 398 started to work on a draft standard for finger entrapment protection devices.

Reducing children injuries in playgrounds

In children’s playgrounds most of the injuries are caused by falls. It is considered that the most severe injuries are injuries to the head. The impact attenuating properties of surfacing in playgrounds are therefore of major importance to reduce the severity of those injuries. However, the standard dealing with the safety of playground equipment (EN 1177) was published in 1997 when only few test methods were available to assess the safety of playgrounds. Since then, many more test equipments became available, leading to serious disparities between test results and creating in turn uncertainty about the safety level of the surfaces used in playgrounds.

In 2006, ANEC commissioned a Research and Testing project to test the impact measurement on playground surfacing materials. The objective of this study was to improve the requirements of the latter in order to reduce the risk of head injuries (round robin test).In light of the study published in March 2007, ANEC issued a report which it presented at the CEN TC 136 SC 1 ‘Playground Equipment for Children’ meeting in June 2007. The changes to the EN 1177 standard proposed by ANEC in its report were accepted and, in addition to the report being referred to in the standard’s foreword so as to explain the main modifications, some parts of the ANEC’s proposals (calibrations and measurement of uncertainties) were already taken into account in the revised standard published in May 2008.

In 2010, the EN 1177 standard was included in a standardisation mandate from the Commission’s General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) Committee for future referencing in the EU Official Journal (OJ). The publishing EN 1177 in the OJ is meant to provide legal certainty for the stakeholders using and implementing the standard.

Safety of household appliances for all

Consumers expect electrical household appliances to be safe, for themselves, their children and the older members of their families. For many years now, ANEC and other consumer organizations have been expressing concerns about the restrictive scope of the standards EN 60335 on the safety of household and similar electrical appliances. Indeed, the standards exclude the use of appliances by both children and “infirm persons”. ANEC believes this to be discriminatory and has asked for the deletion of this exclusion clause, against strong opposition from industry.

Since 2005, ANEC proposed changes to the standards for toasters, microwave ovens, hobs and ovens, hairdryers, water heaters, lawnmowers and trimmers, and grills and similar portable cooking appliances. The aim is to make those appliances safer for all. These ANEC proposals are based on a Research and Testing project to review Parts 2 of EN60335 series of standards.

In 2006, CENELEC set up, at the request of ANEC, a group responsible for addressing this issue (CENLEC TC 61 WG 4) and the European Commission issued a standardisation mandate to support its work. In November 2008, several revised Parts 2 of EN 60335, based on ANEC’s proposals, were submitted to the national delegations of CENELEC TC 61 for approval.

ANEC is pleased with the draft proposals for revision as they represent a step in the right direction to making household appliances safer for consumers of all ages and abilities. However, ANEC regrets that the issue of surface temperature limits for handles and knobs has been postponed as hot handles and knobs pose a serious safety risk to children and elderly people.

These first six revised standards were adopted by CENELEC in April and were made available on 1 November 2010. They are the first to include requirements for use of household appliances by vulnerable consumers. Their adoption represents a huge achievement for ANEC and the consumer movement as they will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union as ‘harmonized standards’, so permitting manufacturers a presumption of conformity to European health & safety legislation in their application.

In 2011, the draft standard, FprEN 60335-1 “Household and similar electrical appliances – Safety – Part 1: General requirements”, was out for Formal Vote. The draft includes generic modifications (use of household appliances by children of 8 years and above; application of the larger child-sized finger; improvements to the visibility of the instructions etc.) at the centre of ANEC’ campaign to make electrical household appliances not only safer but more accessible for children, older people and people with disabilities, based on the results of the ANEC research project. These changes will automatically be valid for all Parts 2 of EN 60335, unless otherwise specified in the relevant Part(s) 2.

Despite ANEC’s concerns about the surface temperature limits in the draft not being in line with the limits of CENELEC Guide 29 ‘Temperatures of hot surfaces likely to be touched’, and despite the fact that the work on surface temperature limits for handles and knobs has been postponed, ANEC supported the adoption of FprEN 60335-1.

Greening of standards

In order to assist standards-maker to address environmental issues and thus contributing to making products greener, an environmental helpdesk was set up (EHD) in CEN in 1995. Its aim was to identify and comment on relevant standards.

After almost ten years of existence, ANEC decided to review all comments so far produced by the EHD in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the system and provide alternative solutions if needed. The ANEC study examined sixty EHD comments and found that they had very little effect on the final or draft standards. In fact, only a few comments have been integrated in the draft standards and then, in general, only as informative notes. The ANEC study concluded that there is a need for substantial revision of the EHD mode of operation if environmental aspects shall be found on the agenda in standardisation.

ANEC issued a press release on the study and presented it at the March 2004 CEN SABE meeting. In May 2006, ANEC successfully lobbied for broadening the scope of EHD statements so as to cover not only draft standards but also existing ones and, for CEN to commit to draft its policy on the greening of standards. In 2008, CEN agreed to start addressing environmental concerns in a more systematic manner, as requested by ANEC. This includes the revision of the CEN templates for meeting agenda and new work items which will have a reference to ‘Environmental issues’.

In March 2010, the CEN Technical Board (BT) endorsed a CEN approach to address environmental issues in product and service standards and asked the CEN EHD to report regularly on the results of implementation. The CEN guidance to technical committees was published in April 2010. ANEC welcomed the adoption of this this new CEN approach and has been encouraging and supporting the EHD in its activities. The EHD has organised several Environmental Training sessions for standards developers last year and recently launched a new e-learning package “Environmental aspects in standardization”. One of the main objectives of this online training is to provide knowledge and understanding of why and how to include environmental considerations in standards writing activities to a wide audience of Technical Committees delegates and other stakeholders with an interest in standardisation and environment.

In 2011, the EHD reported several successful activities related to the inclusion of environmental issues in standards such as in CEN TC 351 ‘Sustainability of construction works’. In response to an ANEC’s request, the EHD agreed to consider a ‘tailor-made module’ on handling chemicals in product standards. A project proposal for European Commission funding is being developed by a small team within the EHD to which ANEC is participating.

Rear seat strength in cars

Accidents show that luggage in the boot of a car can load the rear seat back in the case of a frontal collision and cause the seat back to deform heavily or fail altogether, exposing the rear seat occupants to additional loading. Such additional loading can cause restrained rear occupants, both adults and children, needless injury.

In 2002, ANEC commissioned a Research and Testing project to test rear seat strength. In the ANEC crash test, we tested two cars (representing a robust and a less robust design) and carried out the test according to the international regulation (ECE-R17) as well as according to a more realistic test. In the realistic test, the crash was more severe (the same pulse as in EuroNCAP) and there was more and heavier luggage in the boot of the car. ANEC also placed (child) dummies in the back of the car, in order to obtain some information about the danger for car occupants.

ANEC issued a press release in February 2003 and realized a CD-Rom which was offered for publication to national consumer magazines. High-speed films and digital pictures of the crash tests clearly demonstrate the danger that the luggage in the car boot presents to the car occupants in real life accidents. ANEC made several proposals in order to improve the international regulation such as the spacing of the luggage simulation from rear seat back and its relationship to car size.

Protecting consumers online

The purpose of this ANEC study was to investigate the extent to which unsolicited commercial communication (Spam) and Internet content filters should be testable and comparable to help consumers with their choice. The report, carried out in 2006 on behalf of ANEC, identified performance standards as being the most helpful way of ensuring product transparency and to help with consumers’ choice.

Seven countries (Austria; Belgium; Czech Republic; Italy; Poland; Sweden and UK) were investigated by interviewing concerned stakeholders. Tests carried out by consumer associations show that consumers’ requirements such as clear labeling and reliability are not met. The study also notes that protection of children is of prime concern but consideration for the special requirements of all users should be taken into account (eg: ease of use, ability to report filtering failures, etc).

Following ANEC’s proposal, CEN BT WG 194 was set up to define the scope of a standard on Internet filters in December 2006. Its final report was sent for endorsement to the CEN BT who decided to set up a new CEN/TC 365 ‘Project Committee: Internet Filtering’ in December 2007. The Convenorship and Secretariat are allocated to AENOR.
ANEC-R&T-2006-ICT-002 (part 1) & ANEC-R&T-2006-ICT-002 (part 2)

The kick-off meeting of CEN/TC 365 ‘Project Committee: Internet Filtering’ was held on 12 March 2008, at which ANEC made a presentation. The Technical Specification (TS) on which the TC has been working since 2008, has been mainly drafted by ANEC. The prCEN/TS 16080 "Internet Content and communications filtering software and services" was finalized in November 2012 and launched for formal vote.

The prCEN/TS 16080 “Internet Content and communications filtering software and services” has been adopted in December 2012. The Foreword of the standard mentions ANEC’s contribution.

Core consumer elements for services standards

Standardisation of services will help to accomplish the Internal Market for Services, according to the legal framework adopted in December 2006. However, unlike products, services are much less subject to technical specifications. In order to define the core consumer elements which should ideally govern the standardisation of services in the future, ANEC commissioned a study published in 2007. Whilst the Services Directive encourages the development of voluntary standards to ensure quality of service provision, service standards suffer from incomplete coverage of key consumer aspects such as pre-contractual stage and contract conclusion information, after-sales services, dispute resolution and complaints handling.

On the basis of the study results, ANEC issued a position paper calling on the European Commission to introduce a horizontal legislative framework covering the safety, quality and liability of services, which is to be underpinned by formal standardisation. Such a legislative framework should make use of the comitology procedure, complemented by a stakeholder review process. The ANEC position was presented to the Commission and Member States at the Consumer Safety Working Party meeting in October 2007. It was then used as the ANEC contribution to the European Commission Programming Mandate M/371 in the field of services which aims to assess the benefits and feasibility of standardisation in different services fields – leading to the so-called CHESSS report (CHESSS - CEN’s Horizontal European Service Standardization Strategy). The study and related ANEC conclusions form the basis of ANEC contribution to the work of CEN BT/Working Group 163 “Services standardisation”, in charge of developing a CEN Guidance document for the development of service standards and of further elaborating the CEN strategy in the area of service standardisation.

In 2010, ANEC also used the results of its study to contribute to the Commission’s consultation on the implementation of the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC) 123/EC). The study is then helping ANEC influence the revision of the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD 2001/95/EC) and plea for the development of a comprehensive European legal framework for the safety of consumer products and services. Therefore ANEC welcomed the European Commission’s announcement to propose various legal options that could be used to address the safety of services and products used in the context of service provision in particular. Finally the study is a reference document which ANEC uses in the context of the ongoing discussion on tourism services with both the Commission and the standardisation organisations.