European and Bulgarian legislation provides for various simple, effective, fast and low-cost ways to settle disputes outside of the courtroom, if they arise from the sale of goods or the supply of services online, commonly known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) You can find more information about the most effective methods in the following lines.
Each ADR procedure provides different possibilities to reach an amicable and mutually beneficial solution, but all of them depend on the type of consumers disputes for which they are applicable – cross-border or national. Cross-border is any dispute arising from a sales or service contract where, at the time of the consumer’s orders, he is resident in a Member State other than the Member State in which the trader is established. If the consumer is a resident of the Member State in which the trader is established, the dispute shall be defined as national.
The Conciliation Committees are ADR bodies with the Consumers Protection Commission (“CPC”) and could be general or special. The general committees are competent to assist consumers in settling both national and cross-border disputes. They may be related to civil liability, complaints about the quality or quantity of the product or service, unfair terms, unfair commercial practices, provision of essential information, tourist services and consumers` agreements. The special committees are also competent to assist in resolving national and cross-border disputes, but only in the respective economic sector – energy, electronic communication, transport, financial services etc.
The procedure before these committees may be initiated by a consumer who has already turned to the trader directly, but they failed to settle the dispute. The consumer may submit the application electronically or at the premises of the CPC. The parties are not required to appear before the committee and all documents concerning the case may be submitted and exchanged electronically. The trader is not obliged to participate in such procedure initiated by a consumer. However, if he/ she agrees to participate he/she shall cooperate with the committee. At the end of the procedure the committee makes a conciliation proposal. If the parties accept its terms, it shall be deemed binding for them. Should a party fail to perform its duties under the proposal, the other party is entitled to turn to the competent court.
This procedure is not a precondition to submit a court claim, although the prescription periods for the respective receivables are suspended during its course.
European Consumer Center Net
The European Consumer Center Net (“ECC”) includes 30 centers in all Member States, Iceland and Norway. They provide free of charge and personal assistance for consumers disputes arising from cross-border transactions in the EU, Iceland and Norway. Each center shall help consumers address their claims to the trader, propose a settlement for the dispute or inform the consumer about the possible actions and the competent state authorities.
The settlement procedure may be commenced by any consumer who is a resident of a state other than the state in which the trader is established. The application may also be submitted electronically on the web site of the respective ECC and all written evidence shall be attached to the application. The trader is not obliged to participate in this procedure. The center in the state of the trader is in charge of the correspondence with the counterpart. Thus, both parties in the procedure can use their native language. Each procedure shall be looked into within 10 weeks. The procedure ends with a conciliation proposal and if the parties accept its terms, it shall be deemed binding for them.
Online dispute resolution
This dispute resolution procedure provides each consumer with an easy way to address his or her request or complaint directly to the trader only by filling in an electronic complaint form. It is easily accessible in 25 languages and provides consumers and trader from the EU, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein to resolve their dispute without having to meet each other.
Should you find this ADR most suitable for you as a consumer or you have received such a complaint from a consumer in you capacity of a trader you can find more details about the requirements and the procedure, as well as all other right and duties of a trader in our case-study on “How to Start an Online Shop?”