1.1. The Consumer Programme 2014-2020
On 26 February 2014, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a Regulation establishing a programme of Community action in the field of consumer policy (2014- 2020)1 (the Consumer Programme). It is intended to complement, support and monitor the policies of the Member States and to contribute to protecting the health, safety and economic and legal interests of consumers, as well as to promote their right to information, to education and to organise themselves in order to safeguard their interests, supporting the integration of such consumer interests into other policy areas.
Its specific objectives are:
(a) Safety: to consolidate and enhance product safety
(b) Consumer information and education and support to consumer organisations (c) Rights and redress: to develop and reinforce consumer rights
(d) Enforcement: to support enforcement of consumer rights
1.2. The ECC network
The European financing of the European Consumer Centres Network aims to contribute to the objectives of the Consumer Programme 2014-2020, and in particular to specific Objective IV: Enforcement: to support enforcement of consumer rights by strengthening cooperation between national enforcement bodies and by supporting consumers with advice.
Indeed, the main objective of the ECC Network is providing information and assistance to consumers to help them exercise their rights and obtain access to appropriate dispute resolution, including out of court online resolution schemes as described in its Vademecum 9 objectives:
Providing consumers with information
Assisting consumers with a complaint
Assisting consumers with a dispute
Organising promotional activities
Contributing to ADR/ODR activities
Networking and feedback
Cooperating with enforcement authorities
Collaborating with traders (associations or professional bodies)
Ensuring a uniformly high quality standardised services
According to Article 3 of the Consumer Programme, on objectives and indicators, the attainment of Objective IV will be measured in particular through the activity of the European Consumer Centres and how well known they are to consumers. The following specific indicators are fixed in the Annex II of this programme:
Number of contacts with consumers handled by the European Consumer Centres (ECCs) Long term target: increase of 50% by 2020 compared to 2010
Number of visits to the websites of the ECCs
Long term target: increase of 70% by 2020 compared to 2010
Both these indicators have already been achieved or are very close to being achieved.
1.3. The Commission’s annual work programme for 2017
On 28.11.2016 the Commission adopted a Decision2 (7610 final) concerning the adoption of the annual work programme in the area of consumer policy for 2017. It sets out details of the financing mechanisms and of the priority areas for actions in implementing the Consumer Programme with the 2017 credits.
1.4. Host organisations and ECCs
ECCs are embedded in host organisations that will account significantly for the support needed to implement the proposed actions. Host organisations must coordinate their core tasks with the proposed Network activities in order to contribute to the excellence of the Network and the services to be delivered.
A strong positioning of European Consumer Network within the host structure is essential. The host structure should demonstrate its interest in the action and highlight how existing host organisation activities can be linked to the ECC Network services to achieve synergies and added value for consumers.
2. SCOPE AND OBJECTIVES OF THE PRESENT INVITATION
This invitation is limited to one centre per EU country, Norway and Iceland and addressed to the bodies which have been duly designated by the government of their State according to the invitation sent by the European Commission on 13 December 2016.
The purpose of this invitation is to conclude Framework partnership agreements for a duration of four years covering the years 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 in order to establish a long term cooperation (partnership) between Chafea and the bodies designated to host the European Consumer Centres in the 28 EU Member States, Norway and Iceland.
The Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) sets out the conditions governing grants to partners for carrying out activities, on the basis of a multi-annual work programme and jointly agreed general objectives. The FPA proposal will describe an Implementation Strategy covering the period from 2018 to 2021 (4 years). It should define the broad strategic approach and explain how the specific objectives and operational requirements laid down in the present invitation will be addressed.
Following an evaluation process, applicants will be invited to sign the FPA covering that period. At that stage, signing for an FPA will not result in a grant providing funding to the applicant's selected FPA proposal; it will be a legal commitment, serving as the basis for the partnership established between the successful applicant and Chafea for the next 4 years.
3. ELIGIBLE ACTIVITIES
The implementation of the 9 objectives described in the Vademecum is mandatory: every ECC shall guarantee that the full range of activities is provided in the FPA and subsequent SGA (Specific Grant Agreement) proposals.
ECCs are required to provide general information services on EU subjects that are relevant to consumers. It is expected that the majority of these services will be delivered electronically.
Network partners shall use the most adequate technological solution to increasingly enable clients to benefit from highly customisable (automatic) electronic information services. Information services should attempt to reach as wide an audience as possible.
Applicants should foresee to promote and participate in European campaigns on EU policies, legislation and actions. Potential activities include media relations, awards, information campaigns and events and will be based on annual priorities established by the European Commission.
Dissemination channels to be used by the network include:
ECC website. The centres should make extensive use of their websites. The applicants should foresee the development/maintenance and continuous improvement of an own website where consumers shall be provided with easy access to information about the centre's services and the network
Other suitable media/tools (for example newsletters, e-mails, social media, radio, TV, etc.)
Answers to general questions on EU matters from consumers
Provision of documentation to consumers about relevant EU topics relating to
Cooperation with other information multipliers and stakeholder networks
Events and other local/national actions drawing a large audience.
Case handling is the core activity of the ECC network. Quality case handling and accurate data encoding are essential if the consumer satisfaction with the ECC-Net services is to be ensured. Elements such as productivity and case handling time, accuracy
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and relevance of advice, and proportion of positive outcomes must be taken into consideration when reflecting on the mid-term strategy.
C. Visibility and promotion of the European Consumer Network
The ECC Network has the potential to reach a wide audience of consumers. Each ECC must enhance the visibility of the Network, highlighting the quality and the added value to consumers of its services, and the successful results and impacts.
It is furthermore recommended to make use of cost-effective promotional activities, including social media and online services. Communication partnerships, for example with the media, representative organisations with a wide reach into the consumers community or with organisations in charge of important events for consumers are encouraged.
All Network partners are expected to develop a solid communication strategy and to contribute to the promotion of the Network's services, quality, brand and common identity. They are furthermore required to take part in the ECC network activities and to coordinate communication activities at national and network level.
Network partners should promote the Network and its services through the organisation of:
Joint promotion activities with key local/national partners. Network partners must coordinate their communication activities in order to attract the widest number of potential consumers in their country.
Participation in EU-wide activities reinforcing the visibility of the Network as a whole. Information and promotion campaigns designed by the European Commission to promote EU consumer rights or organized by the network itself shall be actively relayed by the Network members.
In order to facilitate promotional activities for the entire Network, all ECCs should contribute to the collection of success stories, promotional tools and data on the visibility of the Network.
D. ADR/ODR development
ECC members need to build their activities in support of making redress work in reality for consumers. They are therefore expected to carry out actions to support ADR/ODR development in their respective Member States (e.g. promoting the use of ADR entities and the ODR platform amongst consumers and traders; or by mapping their national landscape of the ADR entities).
ECC-Net members are expected to develop a strategy with regard to such actions.
It is recommended to align the ADR/ODR development activities with the activities aimed to enhance the visibility and promotion of the ECC Net itself.
ECCs should support the national authorities in their Member States in promoting the use of ADR/ODR.
E. Networking and feedback
Network building and reinforcing the network interactive support between ECCs is a key factor for the quality and success of the Network as a whole. Therefore, ECCs should dedicate significant and sufficient resources to collaborating with other network members.
Every Centre is expected to actively participate in the ECC-Net networking activities and to contribute to the overall performance of the network. The centres are expected to share a common vision and aims for the success of the network. They should share between each other key information on consumer policy, success stories and good practices in case handling, internal management and other matters like:
Participation in Network activities
All ECCs must provide adequate resources for participating in network meetings, training sessions, groups addressing specific interests within the Network, conferences and other events.
This includes an active participation and direct, swift and professional collaboration with other network members.
Participation in Network training activities
Participation in training programmes of the Network is considered essential for maintaining high quality service levels and activities of the Network. Chafea has currently in place a training programme, in which active participation is required from all partners. Activities carried out in this context include training events in Brussels and other locations where the network is present. E-learning opportunities could also be used (e.g. e-learning modules available at the Consumer champion platform).
Network staff members should attend training events reflecting their professional orientation within the Network.
EU Dimension activities
Additional services addressing internal network needs, that require a strong contribution and significant involvement of an individual ECC, will be considered as having an EU dimension, and therefore eligible for extra funding.
All centres are encouraged to propose actions that provide a substantial contribution to the operation and quality of the network.
Leading Joint projects.
Joint projects should focus on activities aimed at increasing the network's impact.
The main topics and/or objectives of the annual Joint projects will be defined in the relevant invitation for submitting proposals for specific grants.
European ECC two-yearly conference
The European ECC two-yearly conference must be a key ECC event that brings together ECC partners, representatives from European institutions and key external stakeholders.
The conference should offer an opportunity for ECC partners to discuss shared plans, celebrate successes and achievements for consumer policies and prepare future ambition.
The event could cover sessions to widen contacts, plenary sessions, workshops and working meetings. In order to use this opportunity to promote the ECC network, dissemination activities, such as press conference and a media briefing should be foreseen.
The Joint project proposal for the organisation of this conference can be presented by a maximum of three ECCs, who, in cooperation, will organize the event and will be eligible for extra funding.
Undertaking the development and management of shared tools Non exhaustive list of activities to be proposed:
an online document repository
knowledge sharing system
quality monitoring system
case encoding system
legal advice centre
Mentoring schemes aimed at developing legal and assistance capacities of the network
(including of potential new members and/or centres with lower human resources).
F. Cooperation with stakeholders
The ECC network is encouraged to work closely with representatives of other European networks in their country and to liaise with them on a regular basis in order to provide a coherent European support service to citizens.
Mutual agreements to lead citizens to the most suitable service provider should be considered where appropriate.
The EU Representations are also useful interlocutors for the ECC Network and may help ensure the coherence of different European initiatives in the Member States.
The ECC-Net should establish and maintain effective working relationships with key stakeholders (e.g. enforcement authorities, traders/traders' associations, EU or national networks). In carrying out these activities, the centres should be impartial and defend consumers' interest at first.
As ECC deal more and more with complaints relating to internet based scams and other fraudulent activities such as counterfeit goods, much stronger relationships with traders will be necessary, in order to reach out to reluctant businesses in co-operation with national authorities, especially enforcement authorities. This deserves close attention in
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view of recent market developments. ECCs should explicitly propose how they intend to deal with this issue in the FPA.
The ECC-Net should strive to be a network of excellence. As laid down in the Vademecum, ECCs shall provide uniform quality standardised services to consumers. Consequently, all ECCs are expected to perform to the highest quality standards, both in terms of their delivery of services to consumers and in terms of their compliance with internal procedures and workflows of the Network. All centres should respect the agreed case handling protocol when encoding their cases in the IT-tool.
In order to monitor and assess compliance with the set of quality principles, ECCs will carry out annual satisfaction surveys in a manner to be agreed upon with the European Commission and Chafea, and submit their results together with each final report. The results will become a basis for a dialogue focusing on opportunities for improvement for individual ECCs.
4.1. Implementation period
The FPA shall enter into force on 1 January 2018.
4.2. Indicative timetable
a) Launch of the present invitation
b) Deadline for the submission of applications for the FPA
c) Evaluation of FPA applications
d) Notification of evaluation results of FPAs
e) Conclusion of FPAs
5. ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF PARTNERS
The role and responsibility of the partners are described in detail in the Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA).
6. FINANCIAL ASPECTS
Applicants need to conform to the principles and rules as set out by the EU Financial Regulation, i.e. the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and the related rules of application of the financial regulation.
The general aspects of financial management of grants, general principles of EU- co- funding and other financial information such as payment arrangements are described
under point 6 of the Invitation and guide to submit proposals for the submission of 2018 specific grants.
B. SUBMISSION OF PROPOSALS
The formal applications for the 2018-2021 Framework partnership agreements shall be submitted to Chafea via the online application tools developed under the Horizon 2020 Research programmes.
More information on how to access the online application tool will be available in the call section of the Chafea website:
The online submission system is composed of a two-step process:
(1) Registration of the applicant organisation through a specific procedure;
(2) Submission of the proposal itself, also broken down into three parts, as follows:
Part A: includes administrative information of the applicant organisation for the needs of the signature of the future FPA, and is to be completed directly online. It comprises of fields of information, checklists and declarations to be filled by your organisation via the online submission tool.
In order to complete part A:
- in case of multi-beneficiary grants, all beneficiaries must be registered in the
Beneficiary Register and communicate the PIC to the coordinator
- all beneficiaries must have performed a Financial Viability Self-Check. The financial capacity shall not apply to public bodies or to low value grants (equal or below EUR 6.000,00)
- the coordinator must have the project budget per partner
Part B1: includes the technical content of the proposed Implementation Strategy. Part B1 is a blank word file which, when completed, must be uploaded directly as a PDF file into the on-line submission system.
Annexes: These annexes are necessary documents to support evidence for checking the applicant organisation compliance with the exclusion, selection and award criteria. Similarly to Part A, these documents must be uploaded as PDF files directly into the online submission tool.
7. PREPARING FOR THE SUBMISSION OF YOUR APPLICATION
There are several stages to observe when preparing for the submission of your application: sign up to your possibly already existing ECAS account for registered users or create a new ECAS account for new users; and register your organisation in the "Beneficiary Register".
( TRUNCATED -- please voisit the public link for full proposal)