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21 September 2012

EU Consumers: settling small cross-border disputes without any hassle

Help and advice for consumers in Europe

Hunting for cross-border bargains is a way for consumers to get the ‘best deal’ across the EU’s internal market. Shopping online makes these bargains ever more accessible. But sometimes things can go wrong: there might be a problem with the goods or with delivery. To avoid difficult, costly and time-consuming legal procedures, the European Union is facilitating access to justice for consumers in Europe, so that they can effectively enforce their rights. The European Small Claims Procedure is one of the solutions available to resolve cross-border disputes in cases involving €2,000 or less. However, a new report from the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), released today, shows that this user-friendly procedure, available since 1 January 2009, is often under used. This is mainly because judges are not aware of the procedure – something the Commission intends to tackle vigorously.

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner said: “European consumers should feel secure when buying goods and services in the single market without facing additional risks. In case of problems, they should be able to pursue their claims in the European Union’s courts quickly and easily. The European Small Claims Procedure helps consumers to get their money back from abroad. But there is still work to be done to make the procedure work for consumers. Member States should make sure their judiciary knows about the European Small Claims Procedure so it can help people to successfully assert their claims.”

Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli said: “Consumers who want to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Single Market need to be able to rely on a variety of effective and efficient means of redress. I am disappointed to see such a low level of assistance to consumers who have tried to use the European Small Claims Procedure. Today, any small amount counts and not getting proper compensation for consumers affects pockets, hurts confidence and slows down European growth.”

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