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Consumers (23-02-2006)

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) –European workshop to discuss

A workshop to discuss ways to improve Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the EU is being organised by the Commission and hosted by the Austrian Presidency in Vienna today. Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes, such as mediation or arbitration, provide more flexible options than traditional litigation for consumers who wish to settle a dispute or seek redress. Currently, most cross-border disputes tend not to be followed up by consumers, largely because the goods or services involved have a relatively low economic value, especially when compared with the potentially high cost of seeking a legal settlement through traditional channels. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an option which can better meet the needs of both consumers and professionals, by offering an alternative to going to court, and allowing consumers to seek redress in a cheaper, quicker and more informal manner.
The Commission has been active in promoting the development of Alternative Dispute Resolution. Two Recommendations adopted by the European Commission have established quality criteria that each ADR scheme should offer to its users. In addition, the Commission’s proposal for a European Directive on Mediation in Civil and Commercial Matters aims to ensure a sound relationship between the mediation process and judicial proceedings, by establishing common EU rules on a number of key aspects of civil procedure. Finally, the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-NET)provides consumers with information and assistance in accessing an appropriate ADR scheme in another MemberState.
However, current work to facilitate consumer access to ADR in cross-border cases needs to be consolidated. Not all consumer disputes can be solved through ADR due to the lack of such schemes in certain key sectors. In some cases, businesses are reluctant to sign up to ADR.
The workshop organised today seeks to launch a discussion on possible ways for improving the situation with regard to ADR. Three main topics are up for discussion: the framework for quality ADR in Europe; the development of new ADR schemes; and the relation between ADR and other means of redress, such as small claims and collective means of redress. The workshop is being held the day before the Austrian Presidency event on “Effective Legal Redress- The Consumer protection Instruments of action for injunction and group damages actions”
The workshop’s background documents and conclusions will be accessible on DG SANCO website soon. More information on the European Commission initiatives on ADR can be found at:
Commission Recommendations:
European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-NET)
Proposal for a Directive on Mediation in civil and commercial matters