Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Who needs courts? EC: let's settle consumer disputes out of them.

European Commission made an announcement today on the launch of public consultation on alternative dispute resolution schemes (ADR) for consumers.

ADR are nothing new (more information on ADR in European Union may be found here). There are over 750 of them in various Member States. However, there is no harmonisation as to this alternative to courts that consumers may use to solve their disputes with professional parties. ADR is supposed to be advantageous to consumers due to its speed and low costs of participation. Certain directives already mention these schemes (e.g. E-Commerce Directive) and European Commission was already recommending the use of ADR for cross-border disputes. You might think that there is no need for European Commission beginning a public consultation on ADR then. However, the fact that the need for and advantages of the ADR had been recognized in past years does not mean that the state of the art as far as they are concerned is satisfactory. The public consultation that is being launched now is suppose to address certain problems with ADR: the territorial scope of their activity (certain Member States have more possibilities open to consumers to use ADR than others), the sector-specific activity of ADR (certain sectors do not recognize the possibility to solve the disputes via ADR at this moment), the recognition of ADR (the idea is to encourage both consumers and professional parties to use the ADR system). The European Commission's public consultation will remain open until 15th of March 2011 (more information on taking part in it may be found here) . The legislative proposal is expected for November 2011.

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