Consumers with complaints about goods or services bought from companies based in Europe have a new source of help.
The government wants consumers to report bad foreign experiences
The UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) is one of 27 services across Europe that have been created to resolve cross-border complaints.
It will focus on disputes relating to online shopping, auctions and holidays.
The centre is jointly funded by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) and the European Commission.
Run by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI), the new service and will offer consumers online guidance and a telephone helpline.
It will cover goods and services purchased from countries within the European Union or from Iceland and Norway, which are both supporting the scheme.
Ron Gainsford, chief executive of the TSI, believes that the centre will be a vital new weapon in the fight against rogue traders.
"We are seeing dramatic growth in the number of people buying goods and services from companies and traders based abroad," he said.
"It is vital those consumers understand their rights and have somewhere to turn for specialist help in the event of a dispute.
"The UK ECC will provide the capacity and expertise to help consumers get redress when problems arise," he added.
Consumer Minister Gareth Thomas urged consumers to take advantage of the new service.
HOW TO CONTACT THE UK ECC
Call 08456 04 05 03
Fax 0845 608 9600
"People shouldn't just forget about an online or overseas shopping experience that goes wrong," he said.
"Consumers have rights when they shop within Europe and the Government has funded this centre to help people secure them."
Staff at the UK service do not have enforcement powers, but will liaise directly with locally-based counterparts across Europe to try and resolve issues on behalf of consumers.
"This approach is hugely beneficial," said Jed Mayatt, centre manager at UK ECC.
"The local centre will be aware of the laws and cultural differences operating there and will speak the same language, so making the entire process less time-consuming and more effective."