Co-funded by
the European Union
European Consumer Centre (ECC) Italy Bolzano office

Consumer's Telegram November 2018

Insert of n. 86 - Editorial office: Centro Europeo Consumatori (European Consumer Centre Italy - Bolzano office)


EU-wide harmonised fuel symbols

A well-known problem by everyone who travels abroad by car or rents a car: every EU member state has its own labels for fuel so far. EuroSuper, Sans Plomb 95, Premium Unleaded - someone who does not know the local language has had doubts at the fuel dispenser and has even risked to misfuel his or her vehicle with a wrong type of fuel and causing damage to the car. Since 12th October 2018, when customers arrive at a public filling station of any Member State, they see new EU-wide harmonised fuel symbols on fuel dispensers and fuel nozzles. The same harmonised, easy-to-read, clear and simple labels will also be compulsory for newly produced vehicles and will be shown on the fuel-filler caps.
Gasoline-type fuels are now marked by an "E" in a circle. Out of Italy after the "E" could be a number, that indicates the percentage of bio-components (ethanol) present in petrol (in Italy there is no petrol with ethanol on the market). Thus, E10 means petrol with 10 % bio-ethanol. Diesel-type fuels are marked by a "B" inside a square. The combination XTL stands for synthetic diesel and "B" for biodiesel (being on the market also in Italy). Again, in this case the number after the "B" indicates the percentage of biodiesel (e.g. B10 for 10% biodiesel). Gaseous-type fuels mention their specific subtype within a rhombus/diamond. These new labels do not replace existing names and brands of fuels. The standard practice up to now exists side by side with the new EU-wide harmonised fuel symbols.


Additional costs at car rental service

Whereas many fields are regulated according to consumer legislation, there are no peculiar regulations in the field of car rental. Therefore, the person who rents a car must assume that the contractual rights and obligations of the parties are defined in the General Conditions and Terms of the car rental company where the car will be picked up. The actual rental costs are often higher than the costs the car rental company communicated previously, usually because of lack of information or out of a certain carelessness. The European Consumer Centre (ECC) provides on its website answers to the most common consumers' questions regarding this issue.


Cancellations: Airline must provide alternate flight at earliest possible date

The flight of an Austrian consumer from Düsseldorf to Vienna was cancelled and the airline offered her a free alternate flight the next day or a train ticket for the entire route (on the night train without seat reservation and with a change). The consumer rejected this offer and was told that she could organise her return on her own with another airline instead. The consumer actually managed to find a flight to Salzburg and the onward journey by train. However, the airline refused to bear the additional costs for the self-organised return journey. She booked on her own and would have opted therefore for the refund of the original ticket price instead of the alternative transfer. Though, the final judgement of the High Court in Austria was made in favour of the consumer: In case of cancellation the airline must provide alternatives at earliest possible date under comparable conditions and must possibly book at other airlines. The incurred costs must be refunded to the passenger.

A Maltese couple ordered a little too spontanously a leather sofa from an exhibition stand of an Italian furniture dealer and advanced a down payment of 500 Euro in cash. The next day they changed their mind and returned to the exhibition to cancel the purchase. At the stand, they were told that they could cancel the purchase via e-mail and they should provide their bank account information. Within two weeks the amount would be refunded. The two weeks passed, but the 500 euros were not transferred. The couple contacted the ECC Malta, which passed this case on to the ECC Italy. This institution succeeded rather quickly to make contact with the Italian company. The consumers got their down payment back within a short time.