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Updated : 20/11/2015


Breach of online rights: what to do

You have several options if you think your service provider has breached your online rights (contract conditions, quality of service, etc.) or you've been cheated by an online seller:

Contact the service provider/vendor

As a first step, approach the provider or vendor, tell them they've been acting illegally under EU and national law and ask them to resolve the problem before you're forced to take the matter further.

You can refer them to their obligations - as summarised on this webpage and described in detail in the Code of EU online rights.

Sample story

Jutta from Germany was not happy with her internet connection speed, which she thought was slower than what was stated in her contract.

She contacted her internet provider to complain, and this was enough to prompt them to remedy the situation by boosting the speed. Jutta didn't need to take any further action.

Contact the national regulator (for internet service providers)

The next step if your provider refuses to comply. The national regulatory authorities in the electronic communications sector (which covers internet services) may have the power to resolve disputes between you and your internet provider.

Often, they have set up specific procedures for service providers in that sector and can solve disputes fairly and quickly.

You can submit complaints to them regarding contractual conditions, quality of service, access to networks and services, etc.

Out-of-court settlements

You can complain to your national consumer protection authority about any problem you have with online services.

If an online seller is based in the EU, you can also try to settle your dispute with them through an alternative or online dispute-resolution procedure .

Sample story

Arvidas from Lithuania received a bill from his internet provider that was higher than stipulated in his contract.

Having tried - in vain - to get the provider to change his bill, Arvidas was reluctant to get involved in lengthy and time‑consuming legal procedures. But by using Lithuania's alternative resolution scheme, he was able to find a solution at a minimum of inconvenience to him.

Formal legal action

As a final step, you can take the matter to court.

If you believe your rights under EU law (including online rights) have been breached, you are entitled to:

  • a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time before an independent and impartial court
  • the services of a lawyer to advise, defend and represent them.

If formal legal action is likely to be beyond your means, you should be entitled to legal aid.

Even if the service provider or vendor is based abroad, you are entitled to have your case tried at home, if the company is "commercially or professionally active in or [...] towards" your country.

In some cases (including online transactions involving up to €2,000), you can also use the European Small Claims Procedure (all EU member states with the exception of Denmark) - a speedy, cost-effective alternative to traditional court procedures. Launching a small claims procedure is as simple as submitting a standard small claims forms.

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