Effective resolution of consumer disputes
Consumers make an increasing amount of cross-border purchases of goods and services, however, currently there is no effective system established for alternative resolution of consumer disputes. Alternative dispute resolution entities only operate in specific sectors or their jurisdiction is limited with the territory of the respective Member State.
The European Commission has proposed to adopt measures unifying the out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes. According to the proposal, the consumers should be ensured with a right to file contractual claims with alternative dispute resolution entities (ADR entities) regardless of the fact whether the disputes are domestic or cross-border in nature. Every Member State must have ADR entities that are accessible to consumers and meet the established quality requirements (i.e. are well-qualified, impartial, transparent, effective and fair). The above-mentioned unified measures will be established by a respective directive (ADR Directive).
In addition, the European Commission proposes to establish a specific online dispute resolution platform for resolution of consumer disputes arising out of cross-border online transactions. According to the proposal, an online platform should be established where consumers and businesses can submit complaints via an electronic complaint form. The electronic system would then automatically forward the complaint to a competent ADR entity who will resolve the dispute within 30 days. The above online platform will be established by a respective resolution which is directly applicable in the Member States.
The above legislative package has to be adopted by the end of 2012. Member States shall be then obliged to implement the ADR Directive within 18 months (i.e. by the second half of 2014). The online platform will become fully operational six months after the implementation date of the ADR Directive (i.e. in the first half of 2015).