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European Commission - Press release
Consumers: Commission puts forward proposals for faster, easier and cheaper solutions to disputes with traders
Brussels, 29 November 2011 – In 2010, one in five European consumers encountered problems when buying goods and services in the single market. If a seller refuses to repair your laptop which broke down when under guarantee or if you cannot come to agreement with a travel agent over a refund for a ruined holiday, there are ways to sort it out without going to court. But, unfortunately, at this stage, out-of-court dispute resolution in the EU is possible only for some business sectors or in some areas. To tackle this issue, the European Commission unveiled today a package of legislative proposals to ensure that all EU consumers can solve their problems without going to court, regardless of the kind of product or service that the contractual dispute is about and regardless of where they bought it in the European single market (that is, at home or abroad). For consumers shopping online from another EU country, the Commission wants to create an EU-wide single online platform, which will allow to solve contractual disputes entirely online within 30 days.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for consumers is faster, cheaper and easier to use than court proceedings. It is estimated that universal access to quality ADR across the EU will save consumers around €22.5 billion/year. It will also help businesses manage their customer relations and boost their corporate image. The Commission wants the new package of laws to help increase consumers’ confidence in the EU-wide single market, which means for them wider choice and better prices, thus contributing to the growth of EU economy.
Health and Consumers Commissioner, John Dalli said “It is unacceptable that so many consumer problems are left unresolved because consumers have no real effective means of solving disputes with traders. This affects their pockets and hurts their confidence; it also slows down European growth. Once adopted, the proposals that I am putting forward today, will help European consumers to use easy, quick and inexpensive ways to sort out their problems, wherever and however they purchase a product or service in the EU".
What has been adopted today?
What is in it for consumers and businesses?
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) relies on a neutral party (such as an arbitrator, mediator or an ombudsman). It is cheaper, quicker and simpler than going to court.
Today, there are more than 750 ADR entities in the EU. However, in some EU countries they are available only in some regions or only in some sectors (e.g. financial service or telecommunications to name some). Consumer and business awareness of ADR remains low. Online dispute resolution systems for cross-border online shoppers are not yet developed.
The cost of unresolved consumer disputes is estimated at 0.4% of the EU's GDP. This includes the money lost by European consumers due to problems when shopping from other EU countries, which is estimated between €500 million and €1 billion.
The European Parliament and the EU Council have committed to adopting the package by the end of 2012 as a priority action in the Single Market Act (see IP/11/469). The package also completes one of the actions of the Digital Agenda for Europe. After the adoption, EU Member States will have 18 months to implement the ADR Directive. This means that quality out-of-court ADRs should be available everywhere in the EU in the second half of 2014.The single EU-wide platform for online dispute resolution will become fully operational six months after that deadline (i.e. in early 2015), as its operation requires the setting up and upgrading of out-of-court entities where needed.
For more information
Questions and Answers on the proposal: MEMO/11/840
Further details: http://ec.europa.eu/consumer-adr