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Access to justice

Two men holding a pen looking at some documents in a room © Konstanti, fotolia

The EU recognises the need for better access to justice for individuals and companies.

Access to justice for all

In a Europe of open borders, there are many occasions that may lead to citizens finding themselves engaged in litigation before a court of another EU country.

These disputes can be costly, especially where large claims are at stake.

Most often, disputes within the EU require legal representation in the EU country where the case is heard, as well as, in many cases, legal advice from a lawyer, and possibly translations and travel. All these elements generate additional costs

Helping you defend your rights

Different mechanisms exist to help citizens and companies to enforce their rights in the EU:

  • mediation: if you are unable to settle the dispute by yourself, you can consider alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques such as mediation;
  • legal aid: the right to legal aid allows those who do not have sufficient financial resources to meet the costs of a court case or legal representation.

The specific case of 'Collective redress'

It may that illegal acts or omission in breach of EU law affects a multitude of persons or organisations. They may claim individually either cessation of such illegal behaviour or damages, however bundling of their claims in a single collective redress procedure, or allowing such a claim to be brought by a representative entity or body acting in the public interest, could simplify the process and reduce costs.

Collective redress has been discussed within the EU for years.
It is viewed as an:

  • effective means for making multiple claims less cumbersome;
    but also
  • a possible vehicle for abusive disputes, creating obstacles for businesses operating on a common market.

Its potential role in effective enforcement of EU laws and individual rights based on these laws is another factor to be taken into account.

Work carried out in the area of consumer and competition policies revealed the need to ensure coherence in the European approach to collective redress.

A common European framework

The Commission decided to explore the possibility of a common European framework for collective redress. This framework would contain a set of principles that any potential future EU initiatives on collective redress in any sector should respect.

A public consultation was carried out in order to determine which forms of collective redress could fit into the EU legal system and into the legal orders of the EU countries and help to figure out in which fields different forms of collective redress could have an added value for improving the enforcement of EU legislation or for better protecting the rights of victims.

The Commission will continue further works  on an EU framework on collective redress, following up the full range of previous Commission work on collective redress.