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Out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes
The Commission is in favour of the out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes. In order to encourage consumers and undertakings to have more faith in extrajudicial dispute procedures, the Commission establishes principles aimed at improving the quality of such procedures.
Communication from the Commission of 30 March 1998 on the out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes [COM(1998) 198 final - not published in the Official Journal].
Commission Recommendation 98/257/EC of 30 March 1998 on the principles applicable to the bodies responsible for out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes [Official Journal L 115 of 17.4.1998].
The Commission intends to facilitate access by consumers to extrajudicial dispute resolution procedures *.
Consumers may encounter barriers when attempting to have their rights upheld, in particular due to the high cost of legal assistance and the length and complexity of court proceedings, especially in cross-border disputes.
The Commission therefore proposes to promote extrajudicial dispute resolution procedures such as mediation, conciliation or arbitration. Such procedures may assist consumers and undertakings and enable them to resolve their disputes simply, quickly and cheaply.
Extrajudicial dispute resolution
The Commission recommends compliance with the following principles:
- the independence and expertise of the body involved;
- transparent procedures and functioning of the body involved;
- effective, fast, cost-free or cheap procedures. In addition, recourse to a lawyer or legal representative must be optional, although each party shall be entitled to defend their point of view;
- the lawful nature of decisions, which must comply with consumer protection legislation;
- the fair nature of the procedure for each party involved.
This Recommendation is a follow-up to the conclusions of the Green Paper on access of consumers to justice and the settlement of consumer disputes in the single market.