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IP/04/1292

Brussels, le 25 October 2004

Making rights a reality: New Europe-wide support network for consumers

Do you know your rights as a consumer in the EU’s internal market? How would you go about enforcing those rights against a trader based in another EU country? Ensuring its consumer protection laws are properly enforced is a top priority for the EU. Earlier this month the EU passed a new law committing the national authorities in all EU countries to working together in the fight against rogue traders and rip-off merchants (see IP/04/1197). However, the first step to guarantee EU law is enforced is ensuring individual citizens know their rights as consumers and have an easy access to redress. David Byrne, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, today announced plans for a new EU-wide network to advise citizens on just these issues. The new network will be created by merging two existing networks: the European Consumer Centres or ‘Euroguichets’, which currently provide information and assistance on cross-border issues; and the European Extra-Judicial Network which help consumers to resolve their disputes through alternative dispute resolution schemes such as mediators or arbitrators. The new network, due to be launched in early 2005, will build on recent initiatives by Commissioner Byrne and Commissioner Pavel Telička to raise citizens’ awareness of how EU law protects their consumer rights (see MEMO/04/192).

Commissioner Byrne said “EU law provides a lot of protection to consumers. However, people need to know their rights - and how to enforce them - if this legal protection is going to be of practical use. The new network will empower citizens to know their rights and get a fair deal in the EU’s Internal Market.”

In a Eurobarometer survey published today and entitled EU Citizens and Access to Justice, EU consumers showed strong interest in accessing information from an EU network to help them resolve cross-border dispute. Nearly 60% of respondents were aware of the existence of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) schemes - such as ombudsmen, mediators and complaint systems - for settling consumer disputes. ADR schemes can be a cost effective and speedy way of resolving disputes between consumers and traders. The Commission has been keen to promote their use for resolving cross-border consumer disputes, which is why the EEJ-Net (European Extra Judicial Network) was launched in 2001. 58% of these respondents said that, if they had a cross-border dispute, they would be interested in consulting the EEJ-Network for information on ADR schemes in other countries. For the full report see: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/topics/facts_en.htm

The network of “Euroguichet” consumer centres was launched in the early nineties to inform citizens of the opportunities offered by the EU’s Internal Market, and advise them on their consumer rights under EU law.

Currently, consumers have to choose between these different networks to solve their problems and may not always know which one is best suited to their needs. The aim of the new network is to provide consumers with a full service from information to dispute resolution.

Further information

More information about the “Euroguichets” network and EEJ-Net can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/redress/compl/euroguichet/index_en.htm

and:

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/redress/out_of_court/eej_net/index_en.htm


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