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[FYI] Creation of European Network for Out-of-Court Settlement of Consumer Disputes


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Creation of European Network for Out-of-Court Settlement of Consumer 

 DN: IP/00/274     Date: 2000-03-20

     TXT: FR EN DE
     PDF: FR EN DE
     Word Processed: FR EN DE


Brussels, 20 March 2000 

Creation of European Network for Out-of-Court Settlement of Consumer 

The European Commission has published today a working paper to 
provide a framework for national initiatives to create a European 
Extra-Judicial Network for settling consumer disputes out of court. 
The paper will be presented to the Member States at the upcoming 
Consumer Council in April. This is one of the actions foreseen in the 
Commission Communication on the out-of -court settlement of consumer 
disputes of 1998(1).  

"The creation of an extra-juridical network is an important 
initiative towards creating an effective and practical environment to 
boost consumer confidence in cross-border transactions and trade. The 
development of electronic commerce and new distance selling methods 
are likely to lead to a higher risk of disputes across frontiers. If 
things go wrong, resorting to traditional litigation is neither 
practical nor cost effective for consumers and business alike. 
Therefore we want to have efficient alternate dispute solutions 
without heavy regulatory procedures. I am counting on the active co-
operation of Member States to bring this initiative forward and 
realise its potential", said David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and 
Consumer Protection."  

Single One-Stop 'Clearing House' in each Member State 

The creation of the extra-juridical network would reduce costs, 
formality, time and obstacles such as language problems in cross-
border disputes by offering consumers easy access to redress through 
an out-of-court system. Disputes over deliveries, defective products, 
or products or services that do not fit their description should, 
according to the Commission paper, be dealt with by a single, one-
stop national contact point, or 'clearing house', in each Member 
State. This clearing house will help the dissatisfied consumer with 
information and support in making a claim to the out-of-court dispute 
resolution system in the country where the business from which the 
products or services were acquired is located. The network of 
clearing houses should be up and running by the second half of this 
year, ready to deal with consumer complaints.  

Currently, national out-of-court systems to deal with consumer 
complaints are highly diverse, and the outcome can vary from one 
country to another. Some for example result in binding decisions, 
whilst others do not. A Commission Recommendation(2) of 1998 sets out 
the minimum guarantees that out-of-court bodies should offer the 
consumer to ensure their complaints are treated with rigour, fairness 
and independence.  

The extra-juridical network as proposed by the Commission would be 
based on the voluntary collaboration between the clearing houses in 
each country. Its structure will be flexible, so as to accommodate 
new schemes as they develop, make use of new technologies and provide 
the most efficient and effective access to redress. Therefore a 
choice has been made to set up a framework for collaboration between 
the different national bodies, rather than creating a formal 
structure through a Community instrument.  

Both documents and more information are available on the Commission 

(1) Com(1998)198

(2) Commission Recommendation 98/257/EC on the principles applicable 
to the bodies responsible for out-of-court settlement of consumer
disputes (OJ L115/31, 17.04.98, pp.1-16) 

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