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   How to use the consumer complaint form ?

The European consumer complaint form has been drawn up by the services of the European Commission.

It is designed to improve communication between consumers and professionals, with a view to helping them reach amicable solutions to problems which they may encounter in their various transactions.

It is available not only on the Commission's Internet site but also from European Consumer Centres, consumer associations or other consumer assistance and information centres, and from certain professionals.

The form is available in the 11 official languages of the European Union.

It concerns:

- consumers

- professionals

- consumer associations

- out-of-court bodies for the settlement of consumer disputes.

If you decide to use the form, please do not send it to the European Commission.

The Commission has no powers to intervene in the settlement of disputes between consumers and professionals and cannot be held responsible for the consequences of using this form.

The form has been designed to "guide" and orient consumers in formulating their claims. It contains multiple-choice lists of responses to help consumers indicate their problems and their claims, together with sufficient space for users to give additional details or describe particular circumstances not covered by the multiple-choice lists.

As far as possible the Commission services have used simple, familiar terms understandable to the layman, rather than the official legal term corresponding to each precise situation. But as the use of legal or specific terminology is unavoidable in certain places, they have also prepared a guide to help those wishing to use the form to complete the sections on the types of problems encountered and the requests they wish to make to the professional.

The form can be used whatever the sum of money involved and whatever the type of consumer dispute. It is up to the persons concerned to decide how far their problem can be settled using the form.

It can be used for disputes within national frontiers or extending beyond national frontiers but still within the European Union. The multiple-choice design, and the fact that the form is available in the 11 languages of the European Union, should facilitate the problem of translation in cases of cross-border disputes where the parties speak different languages.

The European consumer complaint form may not be altered by users.

The Commission intends to launch a pilot project in the near future, in order to assess the form's relevance and effectiveness. Depending on the results, the Commission's services will then make any changes deemed necessary. The need to create other more specific forms for particular economic sectors will also be considered.

Additional information for consumers

When you encounter a problem with a professional, certainly the first thing you should do is to contact him directly and try to find a solution informally. The European complaint form is in no way designed to replace this essential first stage of dialogue between consumer and professional. It should be used only if this initial informal contact fails to produce a satisfactory result. It can then take the place of the letter of complaint that you would normally have drafted, either on your own or with the help of a consumer association. When filling in the form please bear in mind that, like any other written document, it may be used in evidence if the case comes to court. You should therefore take great care with it and avoid making any false statements which could be used against you, and also keep a copy for yourself.

In this connection, you can contact certain consumer associations which actively publicise and promote use of the form under the pilot project mentioned above and which will help you to fill it in.

For help with completing the form you can also use the attached guide, which gives explanations and examples for each category of problems listed in section 1 of the form - "Problems encountered".

Try to be clear and precise when describing your problem and formulating your request. If necessary you can tick several boxes to describe several aspects of the same problem and use the blank space provided to give additional information and/or describe particular cases not covered by the lists.

We would point out that section III of the form - "Request by the consumer" - is no more than an indicative list of the types of requests that can be made to the professional and is without prejudice to your rights under the applicable legislation. You are therefore advised to find out about the options open to you under the legislation governing your case.

It is recommended that you enclose relevant supporting documentation with the form. These should be photocopies only, not the originals.

It is also advisable to keep a copy of the completed form for yourself.

Make sure that you send the form by a means that gives proof of its dispatch and receipt, for example by registered post with acknowledgement of receipt.

Give the professional a reasonable amount of time to reply. This may vary depending on the complexity and length of the dispute, on whether or not it is a cross-border dispute, on the sector of activity and size of company involved, etc. At all events, it is recommended that you give the professional at least 15 days to reply.

Please note that most national legislations stipulate a time-limit beyond which you may no longer seek redress through the courts. This is called a period of limitation and is sometimes relatively short, particularly for purchases of goods. Whether or not the use of this form suspends this time-limit is determined by the legislation applicable to the dispute. In certain Member States, sending a letter of complaint to the professional automatically suspends the period of limitation.

Find out from a consumer association whether sending this form suspends the period of limitation. If it does not, make sure that you have enough time to try this amicable settlement procedure without risking losing your entitlement to go to court if that should prove necessary.

Attached to the end of the form you will find a reply coupon. When you receive the professional's reply you can detach the coupon and return it to him, taking care to enter on it the reference number that he has given your claim. You can of course communicate your reply to the professional by any other means that you consider suitable (e.g. telephone, e-mail, letter, visit, etc).

Finally, if you are unable to reach an amicable settlement with the professional this form is also designed to give you easier access to out-of-court procedures.

It could, in future, be used to initiate an out-of-court procedure before certain bodies. Moreover, the section of the form reserved for the professional's reply allows the professional to propose that the case be brought before a competent body for out-of-court settlement.

If you accept his proposal you can indicate this by ticking box 60 on the reply coupon. If you know of another competent body to which you would prefer to submit the dispute you can indicate this in box 59, giving reasons for your choice if necessary.

Additional information for consumer associations

The European consumer complaint form can be a useful tool for you in your role of helping to resolve consumer disputes, since it can replace the letters of complaint that you find yourself regularly having to write on behalf of consumers who consult you.

Additionally, consumers are likely to ask you for help in filling out the form, or ask you actually to fill it out for them on their behalf.

You are entitled to fill out the form on behalf of a consumer that you are representing, in which case you should enter your own details in the section "Complaint submitted by". The consumer must then sign the form under his name. By doing so, he is officially authorising you to act on his behalf.

The form may not be altered, but you may "personalise" it by inserting your logo in the space provided in the top right-hand corner.

You will find a reply coupon at the end of the form. Once you have received the reply from the professional you must notify the consumer, who will decide whether to accept the professional's proposal or not. You may advise the consumer as to what his own reply should be and may fill in the reply coupon on his behalf, but it is recommended that you get the consumer himself to sign the coupon before returning it to the professional.

Finally, if the consumer and the professional are unable to reach an amicable settlement this form will also give them easier access to out-of-court procedures. The section of the form reserved for the professional's reply allows the professional to propose that the case be brought before a competent body for out-of-court settlement. If the consumer accepts this proposal you can indicate this by ticking box 60 on the reply coupon. If you know of another competent body to which the consumer would prefer to submit the dispute you can indicate this in box 59, giving reasons for the choice if necessary.

Additional information for professionals

This form has also been designed for you. You can use it to reach an amicable settlement to any problems that you may encounter with consumers in your various transactions.

You can make it available to your clients in your establishments and/or send it to clients who inform you of a complaint.

The form may not be altered but you can "personalise" it by inserting your logo in the space provided in the top right-hand corner.

Although the form does not specify a precise time-limit for reply and it is therefore up to the consumer to state a deadline, we would advise you to reply as soon as you possibly can depending on your circumstances.

You should preferably return the form to the person or body who sent it to you. If the form was sent to you by a consumer association you should preferably return the completed form direct to them so that they can then communicate your reply to the consumer.

When replying to the consumer or the consumer association, make sure you return the entire form (not simply the page with your reply), and keep a copy for yourself.

In the section of the form reserved for you ("Reply from the professional"), you can propose that the dispute be submitted to a competent body for out-of-court settlement. To help you determine the competent body, the services of the European Commission will shortly be creating a database on the basis of information provided by the Member States.

Additional information for the out-of-court bodies responsible for resolving consumer disputes.

The European consumer complaint form is designed to allow a dialogue between the consumer and the professional.

If this dialogue does not result in an amicable settlement, the form will also facilitate access to out-of-court procedures.

If the form has been filled in correctly by both parties it should contain full details of the names and addresses of the parties, the problems encountered by the consumer, the request from the consumer to the professional, and the professional's response to this request. Ideally, therefore, the competent out-of-court bodies should agree to open a procedure coming within their remit on the basis of simple lodgement of this form.

If, as a competent body, you have other types of form that parties must use, you could consider accepting the European form as the introductory document for a procedure to be brought before you and subsequently requesting whatever additional information you consider necessary or asking the parties to fill in other documents.

Download the Consumer Complaint Form in PDF format pdf(80 KB)

Download the Guide in PDF format pdf(21 KB)

 

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