Help if things go wrong

A consumer in France ordered a digital camera from a German website. The customer paid 300 euro in advance for the camera, and was informed that the German trader had sent the camera through the post. However, the camera never arrived. The customer tried to contact the trader several times, but, when he got no response, he turned for help to the French European Consumer Centre (ECC). The French ECC liaised with the German online consumer body, which was able to go straight to the trader. As the trader had no proof of postage, he was obliged to provide the French customer with a new camera. Dispute resolution If you have an unresolved dispute with a trader, do not despair! There are a munber of options you can take for advice or help. Step 1: Seek advice There are a number of places and organizations you can turn to for advice as a first step: 1. The national consumer association in your country. You can find national consumer organizations here: ec.europa.eu/consumers/cons_org/associations/index_en.htm. 2. The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) This network of consumer advice centres helps consumers specifically with cross-border disputes. It was set up in January 2005 by the European Commission in cooperation with the national authorities. The centres give information and advice on problems with shopping across borders and intervene where problems arise. Further information: ec.europa.eu/consumers/redress/ecc_network/index_en.htm. 3. FIN-NET: Network for settling cross-border financial disputes out of court In 2001, the Commission launched a Europe-wide network for out-of-court settlement of cross-border financial disputes. This network, called FIN-NET, aims to facilitate out-of-court resolution of disputes when the consumer and the financial services provider (bank, insurance company, etc.) come from different EU countries. It provides the consumer with an alternative way to solve disputes quickly, cheaply and easily, and may reduce his/her need to go to court. Further information: ec.europa.eu/internal_market/finservices-retail/finnet/index_en.htm. 4. Solvit: Problem solving in the single market Solvit is an online problem-solving network in which the EU countries work together to solve problems caused by the misapplication of single market rules by public authorities. The network deals with cases which include non-recognition of professional qualifications in another country, problems with car registration, residence permits or market access of products. Further information: ec.europa.eu/solvit/site/index_en.htm. Step 2: Take action If your negotiations with the trader have failed and you wish to take things further, you could consider two possibilities: 1. Taking court action at national level or 2. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADRs are schemes set up to help solve disputes without having to go through a costly and time-consuming court procedure. ECCs can give you advice on those ADRs which meet EU standards. Most schemes use a third party such as an arbitrator, mediator or ombudsman to help you and the trader reach a solution. The main types of ADR that deal with consumer disputes are conciliation, arbitration and mediation and are usually provided by trade associations. Further information: ec.europa.eu/consumers/redress/our_of_court/index_en.htm.