The Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper I) adopted on Wednesday December 5, a political agreement on a legislative package on consumer alternative dispute resolution (ADR/ODR), which was reached the same day at a trilogue with the European Parliament (EP) and the European Commission (EC). The endorsement was announced at the Competitiveness Council today, December 10, and will be formally agreed by the Coreper on Wednesday, December 12. The Competitiveness Council also took note of last week’s compromise agreement on the Consumer Programme for the years 2014-2020, which was reached at Coreper level with the EP and the EC.
The package on consumer dispute resolution will ensure that consumers throughout the Union can submit complaints with cheaper, quicker and more simplified procedures. The package constitutes a top priority for the Cyprus EU Presidency since it forms part of the twelve key actions of the Single Market Act I and due to the European Council’s call for its adoption before the end of the year.
The legislative package is comprised of the Consumer Alternative Dispute Resolution Directive (Directive on Consumer ADR) and the Consumer Online Dispute Resolution Regulation (Regulation on Consumer ODR). The proposed legislation will ensure that consumers throughout the Union can submit their complaints about a trader to an entity conducting alternative dispute resolution, which is a cheap, quick and simple alternative to the traditional Court procedure. It will also provide for an online platform to which complaints can be submitted and then dealt with by the dispute resolution bodies.
Potential savings of €20 billion euros
The benefits for consumers will be manifold. According to the European Commission, €20 billion euros could be saved by consumers if successful alternative dispute resolution schemes are in place. Cross-border online sales are also expected to increase, which would give a greater variety and a greater choice of prices to consumers.
This alternative to the often cumbersome and expensive Court procedures will be available to consumers for all types of disputes with traders, except those related to health and education, whether they are buying goods and services in their home country or abroad, online or offline. The legislation also seeks to ensure that there are sufficient safeguards in place that guarantee the impartiality, transparency and effectiveness of the alternative dispute resolution procedures.
Leading the negotiations on behalf of the Council, the Cyprus Presidency held several technical meetings and three trilogues with representatives from the European Parliament and the European Commission and pursued compromise solutions, especially on difficult issues such as the information requirements to be imposed on the Union’s traders.
To enter into force, the agreement will need the formal approval by the Council and the European Parliament. The Council decision will follow the plenary vote in the European Parliament in early 2013.
EU Consumer Programme 2014-2020
On December 4, 2012, the Cyprus Presidency agreed on a compromise text on a new EU Consumer Programme, after a series of technical meetings and informal contacts with the EP and the EC. The agreement covers all provisions except the financial envelope-which is linked to the on-going negotiations of the Multiannual financial framework (MFF), and the use of delegated acts, which is subject to an on-going inter-institutional negotiation. Following a partial general approach reached in June 2012 and the vote of a draft report by the EP IMCO Committee in June 2012, the informal negotiations between the institutions started in September 2012.