The European Commission will next week aim to make it easier for consumers to settle disputes without having to go to court.
Under the draft legislation, to be published on 28 November, consumers would be able to refer complaints to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) bodies. These could be arbitration or conciliation services, or ombudsmen who provide a way of pursuing disputes that does not involve the courts.
While a large number of member states have ADR schemes in place, they are deemed not to provide a reliable means for consumers to resolve disputes over cross-border and online purchases, partly because of language barriers and because they do not cover all types of disputes.
The proposal aims to improve the scope and quality of ADR schemes and ensure that they deliver results within 90 days.
Call for transparency
Monique Goyens, director-general of BEUC, the European consumers’ organisation, said: “A system of ADRs across Europe can be a useful asset for European consumers, but it must be independent and transparent.”
Goyens said that an EU collective-redress system was still the best way to help consumers enforce their rights. She said: “ADR has been pushed with exceptional speed and political energy, but it should not make us take our eye off the ball and be distracted from the fact that judicial collective redress is really the fundamental missing piece for redress in the EU.”
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