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IP/02/1258

Brussels, 2nd September 2002

Financial services: new FIN-NET guide will help consumers to complain across borders

The European Commission has published a new consumers' guide to FIN-NET, the cross-border out-of court complaints network for financial services. FIN-NET is based on co-operation between national dispute settlement bodies and is the first fully functioning cross-border alternative dispute resolution (ADR) network in the European Union. As such, it plays a key role in the Commission's drive to develop a true Internal Market in retail financial services. The new Guide, part of the Dialogue with Citizens initiative to raise people's awareness of their rights within the Internal Market, aims to help European citizens to understand and use the FIN-NET network. The guide is available in all eleven official EU-languages, inter alia by calling the Europe Direct Call Centre (00800 67891011). One and a half million copies will be distributed. It is also available online at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/internal_market/en/finances/consumer/

"If we want a true Internal Market in retail financial services, we need to build consumer confidence so that citizens feel at ease about buying financial services in another Member State, in cases where they can get better value. So we need to make sure consumers know that they can get out-of-court redress over problems which may arise" said Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein. "FIN-NET makes it much easier to complain 'cross-border'. It will help businesses and consumers to resolve disputes fast and efficiently without lengthy and expensive legal action."

The Guide gives consumers information about:

  • What to do if they have a complaint against a financial services provider in another Member State

  • Procedures for settling consumer financial services disputes out of court in the European Economic Area (the European Union plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein)

  • How FIN-NET works

  • How to contact the national complaint schemes participating in FIN-NET.

Background

After a one-year pilot phase, FIN-NET is now fully operational. The results of the pilot year were very satisfactory. More than 400 complaints related to banking, insurance or securities were dealt with between February and December 2001. The network now comprises 41 members.

FIN-NET aims to make cross-border complaining more "user friendly" by overcoming some of the practical problems in handling cross-border complaints. In order to create the network, the European Commission brought together existing and new national complaint schemes, under a co-operation agreement based on a Memorandum of Understanding.

FIN-NET has three main objectives:

  • To provide consumers with easy and informed access to out-of-court redress in cross-border disputes: The network helps consumers to identify the right scheme for their specific complaint, and gives them all necessary information about relevant schemes in their own language.

  • To ensure an effective exchange of information between the different European schemes, so that cross-border complaints can be handled as quickly, efficiently and professionally as possible. The FIN-NET framework provides for swift exchange of both general information and details needed for specific cases, where there may for example be a need to get information about consumer protection rules in a particular Member State.

  • To ensure that out-of-court dispute settlement schemes from different European countries comply with a common set of minimum guarantees. It is vital that consumers can trust the member schemes of FIN-NET. Without consumer confidence the network would be useless. Therefore all participating schemes comply with certain minimum standards, which guarantee an impartial, fair and efficient dispute settlement procedure. Commission Recommendation 98/257 on principles applicable for the settlement of consumer disputes contains these core principles on the creation and operation of out-of court procedures for resolving consumer disputes. The participating schemes all agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding to comply with these principles in order to guarantee fairness and effectiveness in their procedures.

The coverage of FIN-NET is most comprehensive in the banking and insurance sector, since the existence of national dispute settlement schemes is broadest in these sectors.

The Commission is now focussing its efforts on the further successful development of FIN-NET. The geographical and sectoral coverage will be improved and co-operation between the participating schemes will be intensified. The Commission is also giving high priority to making FIN-NET better known to European citizens. The Guide which has now been published is a part of that effort.

Standardised information on all FIN-NET member schemes is also available on the European Commission's web-site (http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/en/finances/consumer/intro.htm) as well as on the multilingual FIN-NET database (http://finnet.jrc.it/).


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