Many have already experienced this: one is looking forward to the summer holidays for months and as soon as one arrives at the hotel, nothing is as promised on the internet or by the travel agency. To get compensation for services which were either not or unsatisfactorily provided is often a difficult process. For many, taking a company to court is far too expensive and too time-consuming. By making proposals on out-of-court settlements or alternative dispute resolution in case of disputes between consumers and companies, the European Commission intends to remedy the situation. This week, the European Parliament has finalised its consultations in the competent Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. However, from the point of consumer protection the result of the votes on the reports on dispute resolution is sobering.
MEP Louis Grech, the competent rapporteur for alternative dispute resolution, praised the voting result and a large number of amendments, which had been decided on a cross-party basis. Now, consumer complaints must be answered within 90 days - free of charge resp. at “very low cost”. Alternative dispute resolution proceedings shall be applied throughout the European Union. Each Member State may retain or develop any already existing rules on dispute resolution. Dispute resolution proceedings shall also be applied to transactions concluded via internet.

However, what has not been mentioned is the fact that dispute resolution proceedings represent a voluntary system. It is therefore highly uncertain whether the proposal on alternative dispute resolution has any chance of success. The truth is, if a company does not participate in the system of alternative dispute resolution, European consumers have no chance of pursuing this easy way to resolve a dispute.

The report shall be decided in the plenum of the European Parliament in September. Afterwards negotiations with the Council will commence. The intention is to adopt the legislative act before the end of the year.