Citizens residing in the European Union (EU) have the possibility to resolve their disputes related to the contracting of goods or services - national or cross-border - with companies established in any Member State. For this, they can resort to alternative dispute resolution entities (ADR entities) in order to resolve their claims through an independent, impartial, transparent, effective, fast and fair extrajudicial resolution procedure.
This procedure tries to resolve disputes between consumers and companies in a free manner for the consumer, simple and within a maximum period of 90 calendar days from the date of submission of the claim or, as the case may be, from the date on which the complete and necessary documentation has been received.
Claims can only be presented by consumers; never by companies, and participation will be voluntary with the exceptions provided by law, for example, in the case of Spain, in the financial field or air transport where they will be mandatory for companies. However, in no case may the binding decision that terminates a compulsory participation procedure prevent the parties from going to court.
In addition, in general, claims that refer to non-economic services of general interest, health-related services provided by a health professional, extension of prescriptions, dispensing and provision of medicines and health products, are excluded from this procedure, as well as those claims relating to public providers of complementary or superior education.
In this context, Spain has accredited and notified to the European Commission its two first ADR entities: The Junta Arbitral Nacional de Consumo, the Junta Arbitral de Consumo de Castilla y León, the Junta Arbitral de Consumo de Euskadi, the Junta Arbitral de Consumo de Extremadura, the Junta Arbitral de Consumo del Principado de Asturias. In this way, consumers residing in Spain or any EU Member State have the possibility to resolve, free of charge, their consumer disputes with entrepreneurs established in our country by going to these ADR entities, whether the purchase has been made face-to-face or online.
Likewise, the service of the two Spanish ADR bodies accredited to date, is provided free of charge to both parties, in Spanish, and the resolution will be given in writing and will be binding for both parties.
For this, the consumer must have previously contacted the company to try to resolve the matter bilaterally. The litigation must not be frivolous or vexatious, the claim must not have been or be being examined by another ADR or jurisdictional body and it must be founded and be related to the violation of the rights and interests of the consumer. The deadline to submit the claim to an ADR body must not exceed one year since the consumer presented the claim to the company. In those cases in which the ADR entity rejects the admission to processing the claim, the consumer must be informed within a maximum period of 21 calendar days from the reception of the claim.
It should be noted that all European Alternative Dispute Resolution bodies have been approved with quality standards to guarantee consumers access to extrajudicial channels with which they can assert their consumer rights in the European single market. And, although each entity has its own rules and procedures, the goal is to resolve both national and cross-border EU consumption dispitues with the same guarantees and rapidity.
Also, for online purchases, there is a specific platform for online dispute resolution (ODR) through which the consumer can submit their complaint online to the corresponding ADR body.
>>> See here all the information of the ADR bodies that have been notified to the European Commission.
How can the European Consumer Centers help you?
When consumers have a problem with a company established in the EU, they can ask for help and advice from the network of European Consumer Centers (ECC-Net) to try to solve the dispute in a friendly way. If this is not possible, the European Consumer Centers may refer the matter to another competent organization, including an ADR entity.
>>> Ley 7/2017, de 2 de noviembre, por la que se incorpora al ordenamiento jurídico español la Directiva 2013/11/UE, del Parlamento Europeo y del Consejo, de 21 de mayo de 2013, relativa a la resolución alternativa de litigios en materia de consumo.
>>> Directive 2013/11/UE EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 21 May 2013, on Consumer Alternative Dispute Resolution and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC (Directive on consumer ADR).
>>> Regulation 524/2013 EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC (Regulation on consumer ODR).