The European Commission has recently published a new consumers' guide to FIN-NET, the cross-border out-of court complaints network for financial services. FIN-NET is based on co-operation between national dispute settlement bodies and is the first fully functioning cross-border alternative dispute resolution (ADR) network in this area in the European Union (see SMN 25).
As such, it plays a key role in the Commission's drive to develop a true Internal Market in retail financial services. The new Guide, part of the Dialogue with Citizens initiative to raise people's awareness of their rights within the Internal Market, aims to help European citizens to understand and use the FIN-NET network. The guide is available in all 11 official EU-languages, inter alia by calling the Europe Direct Call Centre (00800 67891011). 1,5 million copies will be distributed. It is also available online via the Internet.
The Guide gives consumers information about:
- What to do if they have a complaint against a financial services provider in another Member State
- Procedures for settling consumer financial services disputes out of court in
the European Economic Area (the European Union plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein)
- How FIN-NET works
WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS FIN-NET ?
After a one-year pilot phase, FIN-NET is now fully operational. The results of the pilot year were very satisfactory. More than 400 complaints related to banking, insurance or securities were dealt with between February and December 2001. The network now comprises 41 members.
FIN-NET has three main objectives:
The coverage of FIN-NET is most comprehensive in the banking and insurance sector, since the existence of national dispute settlement schemes is broadest in these sectors.
- To provide consumers with easy and informed access to out-of-court redress in cross-border disputes regarding financial services. The network helps consumers to identify the right scheme for their specific complaint, and gives them all necessary information about relevant schemes in their own language.
- To ensure an effective exchange of information between the different European schemes, so that cross-border complaints can be handled as quickly, efficiently and professionally as possible. The FIN-NET framework provides for swift exchange of both general information and details needed for specific cases, where there may for example be a need to get information about consumer protection rules in a particular Member State.
- To ensure that out-of-court dispute settlement schemes from different European countries comply with a common set of minimum guarantees. It is vital that consumers can trust the member schemes of FIN-NET. Without consumer confidence the network would be useless. Therefore all participating schemes comply with certain minimum standards, which guarantee an impartial, fair and efficient dispute settlement procedure..
The Commission is now focussing its efforts on the further successful development of FIN-NET. The geographical and sectoral coverage will be improved and co-operation between the participating schemes will be intensified. The Commission is also giving high priority to making FIN-NET better known to European citizens.
To pave the way for extending the existing FIN-NET complaints network to future Member States, the European Commission organised an important seminar in Brussels in mid-September. This seminar provided a chance for the accession countries to inform the Commission further about their own existing schemes. The objective is to promote best practice in the creation and management of out-of-court redress schemes in the accession countries and ultimately to include them in FIN-NET after enlargement.
(on the guides)
Maria Vieira de Sousa
DG Internal Market -
Tel.: + 32 (0) 2 299 24 27
Fax.: + 32 (0) 2 295 43 51
DG Internal Market -
Tel.: + 32 (0) 2 296 54 67
Fax.: + 32 (0) 2 295 07 50