Out of court dispute resolution for European consumers

How else to get help

European Consumer Centres provide help with consumer complaints to EU* residents who have a problem with a trader based in another EU country*.
If this is not your case because the trader is based in your own country, help may still be available at home.

* and Iceland, Norway

National consumer organisations or authorities

Depending on your country, your consumer complaint about a domestic trader can be handled by a national consumer organisation, a national authority (e.g. a consumer ombudsman) or a regional authority (e.g. a regional complaints board).

In total, there are more than 700 bodies in EU countries handling consumer complaints.

Your European Consumer Centre cannot take on a domestic case, but may still offer online advice on who to contact.

The European Commission's overview of the consumer scene by country (in English only for some countries) can also offer useful pointers.

Dispute resolution out of court

If you can't reach an agreement with a trader but you don't want to go to court, you may be able to use an out-of-court dispute resolution scheme (also known as Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes).

Out-of-court schemes typically use an arbitrator, mediator or an ombudsman to help you settle your dispute.

The advantage of an out-of-court scheme is that it is cheaper, quicker and more informal than going to court.

Out-of-court dispute resolution schemes work differently in every EU country:

  • some are binding for the trader and the consumer, and some are not
  • in some countries, they exist for some industries only (e.g. for financial services, energy supply, building services, health services)
  • some are free and in some you need to pay a fee, but in any case the schemes are usually much less expensive than going to court.

Your European Consumer Centre cannot take on a domestic case, but may still offer online advice on which national scheme will be best for you.

See also the European Commission's overview of dispute resolution schemes by country.

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