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The European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee have stated that consumers must have a “cheap, fair, reliable and easy means of settling outside the courts in disputes with traders over goods or services they have purchased.” They report that the provision of ADR services across members states is varying and that access to it appears to be low, with a fifth of consumers in 2010 encountering problems buying goods or services in the EU, only 5 % took their case to an ADR entity and only 9 % of businesses report ever having used an ADR scheme.
As a result, MEPs in the Committee have adopted amendments on two draft laws on alternative and online dispute resolution schemes, aimed at improving protection for consumers, in particular when shopping online and across borders. At the moment, this regulation is restricted only to cross-border sales and does not include domestic disputes. However the country in which an online dealer is based is often hard to determine, as a consequence the Committee seeks to expand its scope to include
domestic disputes, which would relate to online sales, making the system simpler for consumers to use.
MEPs want ADR schemes to be available free of charge or for a “nominal fee”, with disputes resolved within 90 days. In addition, they want traders to make customers aware of the availability of ADR, whether they are committed to using ADR to resolve a complaint and how to contact the ADR provider.
In Scotland, the Scottish Government funded Scottish Mediation Helpline provides a referral service for mediations across the sectors, at fixed rates. To find out more, contact 0131 556 8118 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.