Informal dispute resolution for consumers
Contact the trader
As a first step, approach your trader's customer service department - contact details are normally on the trader's website. Tell them they've failed to comply with EU or national law, and ask them to resolve the problem. You can refer them to their obligations, as summarised on this page. It's always a good idea to back up your claim with evidence (invoice, contract, etc.). If this approach doesn't work, consider taking the matter further.
Jutta, from Germany, was dissatisfied with her internet connection speed, which was lower than that stated in her contract.
She contacted her internet provider to complain, which prompted them to increase their connection speed. Jutta didn't need to take any further action.
If you and the trader cannot settle your contractual dispute directly, the trader has to inform you about further steps, such as:
- filing a formal complaint
- initiating alternative dispute resolution procedures
Contact a consumer organisation or regulatory authority
Consumer organisations in your country can usually also:
- provide more information on your rights
- take action to help you enforce them
If you have a problem with a service provider, you can also contact the competent national regulatory authorities. Each sector has its own national regulatory authorities, whose specific remit may vary from country to country. Many regulatory authorities have specific procedures for service providers in their sector and can resolve disputes fairly and quickly.
Find out more about:
- national regulatory authorities in the electronic communications sector
- national regulatory authorities/Ombudsmen in the energy sector
- national regulatory authorities in the financial sector
European Consumer Centres
If you have any problems when purchasing goods or services abroad in the EU, Norway or Iceland, contact one of the European Consumer Centres. These centres can:
- tell you about your rights under EU law and national consumer legislation
- advise you on possible ways of following up your consumer complaint
- help you reach an amicable settlement with traders abroad from whom you have purchased goods or services, whether online or face to face.
- redirect you to an appropriate body if the ECC-Net can't help
European Consumer Centres can help you free of charge if:
- you have a problem with a trader based in another EU country
- you have already complained to the trader in writing
- you are complaining as an individual, not on behalf of a company
Triona, from Donegal in Ireland, purchased a laptop from a UK-based website. Unfortunately, when it arrived she discovered that it didn't work properly. The trader advised her to send it back to the manufacturer for repair. She did so, but it wasn't long before the fault recurred.
Triona contacted the trader again to ask for a refund, but was told this wouldn't be considered until the laptop had been repaired 3 times. At this point, she contacted ECC Ireland for help. The Irish office shared the case with its counterpart in the UK, which set about contacting the trader. The UK ECC's intervention was successful, with the trader collecting the laptop and giving Triona a full refund of EUR 445.92
If you contact the trader or a European Consumer Centre, as described above, you still have the right to bring a case before a court at a later stage.