ECC-Net is a European network made up of 29 European Consumer Centers placed in each Member State and Iceland and Norway.

Each European Consumer Center (“ECC”) provides information and advice to consumers on cross border disputes. The ECC seeks an amicable resolution between the parties and where appropriate refers the consumer to the relevant claims procedure.

In September 2012, ECC-Net published a report examining the awareness and implementation of the European Small Claims Procedure (“ESCP”) as established by Regulation (EC) No 861/2007.

The ESCP took effect across Member States from 1 January 2009. The aim was to introduce a quick and cost effective means of settling cross border consumer disputes to encourage consumer confidence and trust in the Single Market.

Claims involve sums of 2000 Euros or less and typically relate to transport services (such as flight cancellation or lost baggage) and purchase of goods. A judgment is made in the consumer’s country of residence and is enforceable in the country of the respondent.

The report identifies that the ESCP is neither recognized nor administered in a significant number of Member States (over 40%) despite the Regulation. There appears to be an overall lack of awareness’ amongst consumers and the courts. Over 40% of Member States reported that the procedure was used 5 times or less since 2009 but almost 50% had no data.

The report proposes various remedies to improve the awareness and implementation of the ESCP. It is also suggested that once the court procedure works effectively it will encourage companies and traders to use alternative ADR procedures such as those proposed to work across Europe in the EC proposal “Communication on Alternative Dispute Resolution” (2011).

It is clear that there are a number of methods to improve consumer confidence and that the focus remains strongly on the use of ADR.

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By Justine Mensa-Bonsu

Justine Mensa-Bonsu is an Adjudicator and Independent Complaints Reviewer. She is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators under the adjudication pathway. She has extensive experience in the field of adjudication, having issued well over 500 decisions on consumer law disputes to date.