Denmark, Poland, Italy and UK prepared together a report (published in December 2009) about a use of various mechanisms of cross-border dispute resolution within EU.
Cross-border trade within the EU is growing and there is a general consensus that this is a positive development since it means a wider choice of products and services as well as lower prices for consumers. But as cross-border trade is growing so are cross-border complaints.
If consumers are to have trust in cross-border trade they need to know that it is safe to shop in other EU-countries. And different remedies are already in place to help consumers solve their cross-border complaints, one of these being the European Consumer Centres Network (The ECC-Network).
The ECC-Network is an EU-wide network consisting of 29 centres, one in each EU member state together with a centre in both Iceland and Norway. The Network is co-financed by the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General of the European Commission and by the member states. The main aim of the ECC-Network is to create consumer confidence in the Internal Market and assisting consumers with cross-border complaints is one of the key objectives of the network.
Since 2007 the ECC-Network has systematically been registering complaints received in an online case handling system and data shows that the number of complaints has grown from 5,000 in 2007 to 6,500 in 2008 to estimated 8,000 in 2009. In other words an increase in the number of complaints of 60 % from 2007 to 2009.
With this network report we want to have a look at how likely consumers are to have their cross-border complaints solved today and which role alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (ADR) play in this. ADR we define as complaint handling mechanisms dealing with consumer complaints without involving the traditional court system.