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Internal Market Problem Solving System (SOLVIT network)
The SOLVIT network makes it possible to settle disputes linked to the incorrect application of internal-market rules by public authorities. Citizens and businesses can thus find a fast and efficient out-of-court solution to their problems, free of charge.
Commission Recommendation of 7 December 2001 on principles for using "SOLVIT" - the Internal Market Problem Solving Network [Official Journal L 331 of 15.12.2001].
SOLVIT is an online network which helps find out-of-court (informal) solutions to complaints by consumers and businesses regarding the incorrect application of internal-market laws by public authorities.
By way of example, the network might find solutions to cross-border problems in the European Union (EU) relating to employment, the recognition of university qualifications, car registration, business start-ups or the supply of goods and services. It operates in all EU Member States, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
How the SOLVIT network works
With EU enlargement on 1 May 2004, the number of centres in the SOLVIT network went up to 28. SOLVIT centres are part of the public authorities of the member country in which they are located. They are interconnected by a central database boasting a high level of transparency, which makes it possible to monitor the network's performance and results. Since 2003, organisations representing consumers or businesses have been able to submit their cases online.
This problem-solving network is free of charge and takes an informal, customer-oriented approach. If a SOLVIT centre regards the complaint received from a consumer or business as justified, it accepts it and forwards it to the SOLVIT centre in the country where the problem has arisen. A solution can then be found within a ten-week deadline.
The solutions proposed are not binding. In any case, if customers do not consider the proposal to be acceptable, they may request that the dispute be resolved through the courts. The Member State concerned is responsible for settling the dispute. If the Member State does not take action, the Commission reserves the right to initiate proceedings.
Quality of the SOLVIT network
Based on past experience and the smooth functioning of the network, the Commission and the SOLVIT centres have developed common quality standards with the aim of:
- ensuring that all European citizens and businesses have access to a high-quality service in their country of residence and in the country in which the problem has arisen;
- guaranteeing that all SOLVIT centres are committed to working with the Commission to achieve a high-quality service;
- ensuring that the quality and performance of the SOLVIT service will not deteriorate with the expansion of the network and an increase in the number of cases submitted;
- working with a completely transparent database that allows all parties involved to monitor the network's quality and efficiency;
- emphasising that SOLVIT is a new approach that combines the handling of complaints with administrative cooperation.
The Commission carries out regular inspections of the centres to check the quality of the solutions they are providing and the performance of the network.
Other systems for the informal resolution of disputes (between consumers and businesses):
The other out-of-court systems for settling cross-border disputes between consumers and businesses are:
- the FIN-NET network, which helps consumers quickly resolve problems in the cross-border financial services sector. For further information, see the Internal Market Directorate-General's website pages on the FIN-NET network.
- European Consumer Centres Network (Réseau CEC or ECC-Net for settling cross-border consumer disputes.
The Commission has also participated in the launch of the ECODIR electronic platform for the settlement of consumption-related disputes.
For further information, please consult the pages on the SOLVIT network on the European Commission's website. These include the addresses of each national centre.