in the EU
A European Commission study
Many things inﬂuence
Diﬀerent factors make
consumers more or less
on the situation.
WHO IS A VULNERABLE CONSUMER?
Consumers can become vulnerable if they
Are at a higher risk of experiencing problems when buying or using goods or services*
Feel vulnerable because of their personal characteristics
Find it hard to get or understand information about products or services
Are less able to buy, choose or access suitable products or services
Are more susceptible to marketing practices
* For example, because they can't use certain payment methods.
These are the five dimensions of consumer vulnerability.
MOST CONSUMERS ARE VULNERABLE AT SOME TIME OR OTHER, DEPENDING ON THEIR SITUATION AND CIRCUMSTANCES.
WHEN ARE MOST CONSUMERS VULNERABLE?
Dimensions are ranked in order of importance
When faced with complex marketing material
are unable to select the best offer when offers make use of complex pricing
When they are less able to buy, choose or access suitable products or services
do not compare product deals in the energy sector and the finance sector
When they feel vulnerable because of their own characteristics
feel vulnerable due to at least one of their personal characteristics
When they cannot get or understand information about products or services
report difficulties comparing deals in the energy sector due to problems with the information provided
When they are at a higher risk of experiencing problems when buying or using goods or services
have paid too much for services because they can't use certain payment methods
WHAT MAKES CONSUMERS VULNERABLE?
Drivers such as age, employment situation and access to the internet can increase or decrease consumer vulnerability.
Find out what makes consumers more or less vulnerable and when by exploring the tables by drivers and dimensions.
Untick dimensions you don’t want to view
- Dimension 4 has been divided into 4 sub-sections.
- More vulnerable
- Less vulnerable
- Younger (16-34 max)
- Older (45+)
- Gender (being male)
- Living in a region with a low population density
- Low level of education
- Mother tongue different to the official language(s) of the country of residence
- More willing to trust people
- Being too ready to believe something is real or true
- Failing the test on readiness to believe
- Being impulsive
- Being willing to take risks
- Being able to accurately calculate numbers or quantities
- Knowledge of the online sector
- Knowledge of the finance sector
- Being unable to read contract terms & conditions due to small print
- Rarely comparing deals from energy suppliers
- Rarely comparing deals from internet providers
- Rarely comparing deals from banks
- Not knowing their energy supply contract conditions
- Not knowing their internet provider contract conditions
- Not knowing their bank contract conditions
- Not reading bills/communications from energy suppliers
- Not reading bills/communications from internet providers
- Not reading bills/communications from banks
- Finding it difficult to read bills/communications from energy suppliers
- Finding it difficult to read bills/communications from internet providers
- Finding it difficult to read bills/communications from banks
Difficulties with access
- Using the internet for some activities at least once a month
- Using the internet to search for information at least once a month
- Using the internet to compare prices at least once a month
- Using the internet to bank online at least once a month
- Using the internet to sell online at least once a month
- Using the internet for social networking at least once a month
Situations leading to vulnerability
- Being unemployed
- Being in education
- Being self-employed
- Being retired
- Being long-term sick or disabled
- Being unemployed for 5+ years
- Cohabiting with a partner
- Marital status other than married
- Having friends who buy online
- Being in a difficult financial situation
- Having friends who are in a difficult financial situation
THE SITUATION ACROSS EUROPE
Top 5 indicators of vulnerability per country
(Not all vulnerability indicators were collected in all countries)
The Czech Republic
The United Kingdom
- The lowest rates of consumer vulnerability
- Below average rates of consumer vulnerability
- Average or high rates of consumer vulnerability on some indicators but low rates on others
- Above average rates of consumer vulnerability
- The highest rates of consumer vulnerability
REDUCING CONSUMER VULNERABILITY
The study tested several problematic marketing practices in experiments with consumers and found that many consumers are vulnerable when presented with complex offers. Improving the presentation of prices and other key information reduced consumer vulnerability by up to 19 percentage points.
Good practices to empower consumers
Make pricing clearer
Show full price from the start of the purchase
Make key information more visible
The results of this study will help policy makers shape consumer policy in the future to help consumers get the best and fairest deals in Europe. The study covers all 28 EU countries as well as Norway and Iceland. It was carried out by London Economics, VVA Consulting and Ipsos Mori consortium on behalf of the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers of the European Commission.