Greek consumers feeling more vulnerable as crisis deepens

Greeks appear to feel increasingly insecure about their consumer rights and believe they are exposed to a growing number of unfair and abusive commercial practices in the midst of the economic crisis.

According to the European Union’s latest survey on consumer behavior and conditions, just 18 percent of Greeks felt adequately protected by existing consumer legislation. This is by far the lowest rating in the last five years, having declined from 31 percent in 2008 to 29 percent in 2009, 30 percent in 2010 and 28 percent in 2011. The EU-27 average stands at 55 percent.

But low consumer confidence also appears to be accompanied by a low awareness of consumer rights, which creates a serious obstacle to claiming them. Responses to four questions asked of all participants in the survey throughout the EU showed that Greeks are the least informed: Only 41 percent were aware of the period for reneging on a distance purchase, with the EU average standing at 69 percent; and only 15 percent of Greeks know their rights in case they receive products they have not ordered, against a 30 percent EU average. Interestingly, Greek consumers appear to be more easily influenced by media coverage of various products, with 57 percent stating they changed their stance as a result of a report – against 48 percent in the EU as a whole. Also, according to the Consumer Scoreboard, 57 percent of Greeks trust consumer organizations, vis-a-vis a 75 percent EU average.

The survey also found that despite Greeks being the most suspicious of illegal commercial practices in the EU, they are unwilling to report them. More surprisingly, only 45 percent of retailers themselves appear to have adequate knowledge of unfair commercial practices.

The report draws attention to the fact that consumers’ perceived deterioration of their standing is also related to the economic conditions in their country, with Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria among the laggards. One interpretation is that the reduction in disposable incomes has increased consumers’ sensitivity when their rights are violated.