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In Sweden there are various alternative methods for resolving disputes. Many of these are entirely extrajudicial. Nevertheless, there are also dispute resolution mechanisms that have extrajudicial features, but are a purely procedural part of the court’s examination of a dispute (conciliation and mediation).
Some extrajudicial procedures are statutory, whilst others are founded on agreements between two or more private-law bodies/persons.
Perhaps the most important statutory procedure takes place at the National Board for Consumer Complaints. The National Board only examines disputes between businesses and consumers at the request of the consumer. The procedure, which also covers cross-border disputes, is written and free of charge to the parties. Decisions by the National Board for Consumer Complaints take the form of recommendations to the parties on the way in which their dispute should be resolved.
For certain types of dispute there is a possibility of mediation. That is the case in employment disputes, tenancy disputes, disputes involving tenant-owners, rental disputes, copyright disputes and disagreements between spouses. See below for further information on these different cases of mediation.
In several sectors, private initiatives have set up special boards. This is very common in the insurance sector, for example. The fields of activity of the various boards may vary somewhat, but in general it can be said that their function is often to work towards a flexible and impartial resolution of disputes between, for instance, an insurance company and a policyholder. Several boards in the insurance sector also have the task of working towards the uniform resolution of insurance cases, which reduces the number of disputes that arise. The boards have been formed primarily under agreements between different companies, but are fully independent of their instigators. The boards concentrate mainly on disputes between businesses and consumers. Larger insurance companies often also have their own customer ombudsmen, who policyholders may contact if they are not satisfied with the company’s decision on the settlement of a claim. The customer ombudsman is appointed by the company, but performs his duties independently of it. Examples of boards of this kind are the Accident and Sickness Insurance Board, the Life Assurance Terms Board and the Liability Insurance Personal Injury Board.
The procedure is written, except in a few exceptional cases. In the written procedure there is nothing to prevent a party from consulting a representative or an assistant. No particular requirements apply to the representative or assistant.
The private dispute resolution procedures are mostly free of charge, even though a small application or registration fee is levied in a few exceptional cases. The procedures are paid for by the businesses/companies that are party to them. In most cases, operating costs are shared between the companies involved in proportion to the degree to which they utilise the board’s services. There is a possibility of obtaining reimbursement for representation costs, for example, from the insurance policy in question.
Disputes are resolved primarily through decisions that are of an advisory, non-binding nature (recommendations). In some cases, however, a business may give a prior undertaking to its trade organisation to comply with the recommendations.
Unlike court judgments or orders, decisions cannot be enforced compulsorily. The fact that a business gives an undertaking to its trade organisation to comply with a decision does not therefore affect enforceability, because the business’s undertaking applies only vis-à-vis the trade organisation. Even though the decisions cannot produce any particular legal consequences, a business that gives an undertaking to its trade organisation to comply with decisions can be subject to penalties under civil law, such as exclusion from the organisation.
Because extrajudicial dispute resolution in Sweden is an alternative to normal judicial examination, appeals against the decisions cannot be made to courts. Nevertheless, a decision by an extrajudicial dispute resolution body is not a procedural obstacle and it is therefore possible to bring an action before an ordinary court on the same matter both during and after an alternative dispute resolution procedure. If the action is brought after an extrajudicial dispute resolution body has delivered a decision on the matter, it is common for the pronouncement by the dispute resolution body to be introduced into the proceedings in some way.
In pending judicial proceedings there are two forms of dispute resolution that have extrajudicial features: conciliation and mediation. Both mechanisms are governed in the Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure. Conciliation in particular is a very common element of civil-law proceedings in ordinary courts.
When the court has issued a summons in a civil case, oral or written preparatory proceedings must take place. One of the aims of the preparatory proceedings is to clarify whether there are prospects for conciliation. If conciliation is permitted in the case, the court must endeavour to ensure that the parties are reconciled where appropriate, having regard to the nature of the case and other circumstances. It is therefore the court which, if it deems it appropriate, takes the initiative for conciliation talks between the parties. The presiding judge in the case chairs the conciliation talks. The conciliation procedure is not required to take any specific form, nor is it mandatory. The parties can therefore declare that they are not interested in holding conciliation talks without suffering any repercussions. If the conciliation talks do not lead to a settlement between the parties, the judicial proceedings continue as normal. The judge who takes part in conciliation must ensure that he or she is impartial throughout the procedure. Like judicial proceedings in general, the conciliation procedure is free of charge. However, an application fee must be paid when the case is brought to court (currently around EUR 50).
If, having regard to the nature of the case, it is more appropriate for special mediation to take place, the court can appoint a special mediator to chair the conciliation talks. The mediator is then not the judge in charge of the case, but an outsider. The parties are usually consulted before the court orders mediation. The costs for the specially appointed mediator are borne by the parties.
As has already been explained in “Alternative dispute resolution - General Information”, the Commission has published on its website a list containing a large number of dispute resolution bodies dealing with consumer disputes in the Member States. The list includes the practical information that you need to determine whether you can use any of these bodies’ dispute resolution methods: their structure, field of application, procedures, costs and other details.
You may also need to call on the services of a dispute resolution body in another Member State. To obtain information on such bodies, you can visit the EEJ-Net website
if the dispute relates to financial services, FIN-NET's website.
In Sweden, the main body to which consumers can turn is the National Board for Consumer Complaints. There is further information on the National Board for Consumer Complaints on the Commission’s website at the above address.
Alternative dispute resolution methods that exist in Sweden are, with the exception of arbitration proceedings and procedures that form part of judicial proceedings, geared primarily to disputes between businesses and consumers. However, see below under the heading “other specific situations”.
Employers and employees in a contractual relationship who are in dispute with one another must resolve the dispute by means of negotiation or, as a last resort, through proceedings at the Labour Court. There are no alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for legal disputes of this kind. For certain other disputes, however, mediation may be possible. In Sweden there is therefore a National Mediation Office, whose mediation work is governed by statute. The National Mediation Office provides mediators for disputes between employers and employees over negotiations on wages and general terms of employment or for disputes where a company refuses to sign a collective agreement with a professional organisation. The National Mediation Office can appoint mediators at the request of the parties. The National Mediation Office can also appoint mediators even in the absence of such a request, for example if one of the parties has given notice of a conflict and the National Mediation Office considers that mediators can bring about a successful resolution of the dispute. The procedure is free of charge.
For parents who find themselves in dispute with one another, there are two alternatives to judicial proceedings: cooperation discussions and family counselling. Family counselling is also an option for couples without children. The procedures are described in greater detail below.
Cooperation discussions are discussions chaired by experts, the aim of which is for the parents to reach agreement on the custody of their children, the children’s residence and access to the children. The goal of the discussions is therefore compromise solutions. But even if this aim cannot be achieved, the parents may gain greater understanding of one another’s viewpoints as a result of the discussions and may learn to handle their conflicts in a way that does not cause suffering for their children.
All municipalities in Sweden offer cooperation discussions. Any parents who have difficulty agreeing on issues of custody, residence and access and who want to hold cooperation discussions can contact the municipality. If a court action on custody, residence and access has already been brought, the court can take the initiative to hold cooperation discussions. The discussions are free of charge.
If the parents concur, they can make an agreement on custody, residence and access. The agreement applies if it is in written form and approved by the Social Welfare Board. The fact that the agreement applies means that it has the same effect as a court judgment. This implies, among other things, that the agreement is enforceable.
Family counselling consists of discussions with a view to dealing with cohabitation conflicts in couples and families. The discussions can take place before, during or after a separation. If there are children, family counselling can help to abate conflicts so that parents are able to work together as parents after the separation. Contact with family counselling is voluntary and is made on the couple’s own initiative. In order for family counselling to take place in an atmosphere of trust and to be able to fulfil its function, those participating must be certain that the often sensitive information that is disclosed in the discussions is not passed on to others. Family counselling sessions therefore have particularly strict confidentiality rules. Anyone who so wishes can contact the family counselling service anonymously.
All municipalities are required by law to offer family counselling either through the municipality itself or through other suitable professional counsellors. Family counsellors are qualified social workers with advanced training in relational matters. Those who wish to contact the family counselling office can contact the municipality. The municipality is entitled to levy a charge for family counselling.
Family counselling is also provided by bodies like church associations.
Except for in family disputes, individuals who are in dispute are referred to courts and the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms that exist as part of proceedings; see above under the heading “Conciliation and mediation in judicial proceedings”.
In tenancy disputes, disputes involving tenant-owners and rental disputes, mediation can take place at regional rental or tenancy tribunals.
If a landlord and a tenant cannot reach agreement on an issue relating to a tenancy or if a tenant-owners’ association and a tenant-owner cannot reach agreement on an issue relating to a lease, one or both parties can approach the regional rental tribunal for help in resolving the dispute. The party or parties then ask the tribunal to mediate in the dispute. The regional rental tribunal can mediate in all rental disputes and disputes involving tenant-owners that occur. Normally, the regional rental tribunal makes a proposal for an agreement if the parties themselves fail to reach a settlement in a meeting at the tribunal. Mediation is obligatory in certain cases, such as disputes concerning the rental of premises. If, for example, the landlord has terminated the rental agreement and the tenant does not wish to vacate the premises without receiving compensation, the tenant must refer the dispute to the regional rental tribunal for mediation. If the tenant fails to do so, they forfeit their right to compensation. The regional rental tribunal can issue an opinion in the course of the mediation, for example on market rents for premises. Such an opinion has presumptive effect in any subsequent compensation dispute.
Furthermore, even if mediation is not requested, the regional rental tribunal must endeavour to reconcile the parties in disputes which the tribunal must examine in accordance with the division of responsibilities between ordinary courts and regional rental tribunals, for example disputes on the renewal of residential rental agreements following termination with due notice. In this mediation, if the parties cannot be reconciled on the basis of proposals from either party, the regional rental tribunal must make proposals for conciliation, unless it is clear that there are no prospects of conciliation. If the parties do not approve the conciliation proposal, the tribunal must examine the dispute.
Lastly, ordinary courts can refer cases that they hear for mediation in regional rental tribunals. If mediation is unsuccessful, the court decides the case.
The regional rental tribunal does not levy any charge on the parties. Each party must bear its own costs, e.g. representation costs or costs for loss of earnings for the time taken by the negotiations. In certain cases a party may be granted legal aid. The procedure before the regional rental tribunal is public.
The procedure in regional tenancy tribunals is the same as in regional rental tribunals.
Provision is also made for mediation in certain copyright disputes. The aim of the mediation is to facilitate the formation of collective agreements on which the application of certain provisions of copyright law is based. This is the case primarily with agreements to take out contractual licences. The procedure is not therefore an alternative to normal judicial examination.
The procedure is voluntary and seeks to help the parties to reach an agreement. Mediation is requested through a petition to the government, which also appoints the mediator (conciliator). If the mediation procedure is unsuccessful, the mediator can propose an arbitration procedure, but the parties are not obliged to take part in any such procedure. The mediator can also notify the government in the event that mediation does not produce any result. The government must then consider possible measures. The procedure is confidential.
The mediator is entitled to remuneration for his work. Unless otherwise agreed, remuneration is paid by the party that requests mediation.
Last update: 06-07-2007