Unión EuropeaIn response to the uncertainty existing in international transactions, the European Union has issued two legal instruments of great interest.

In 1984, Spain issued the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users; a law that was intended to establish a set of measures able to resolve the various conflicts that could arise in this matter. Along with the judicial system, a “Consumers´ Arbitration System” was established as a means of resolving conflicts, which meant that out-of-court alternatives to the court system had been strengthened by our public authorities.

However, the European panorama of out-of-court resolution has left much to be desired in comparison with its Spanish equivalent.

It is Article 169 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which establishes that the Union should contribute to achieving a high level of consumer protection, ensuring access to simple, effective, fast and affordable ways to solve national and cross-border disputes arising from contracts for the sale or provision of services.

With this problem in mind, the European legislator has published two new legal instruments; the Directive 2013/11/EU, of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 21st may 2013, regarding alternative dispute resolution in the field of consumption, and the Regulation (EU) 524/2013, of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 21st may 2013, regarding online consumer dispute resolution.

The Directive 2013/11/EU provides for the promotion of institutions of alternative resolution (RAL) whose task would be to solve contractual disputes for consumers and traders online or offline, applying this legislation only regarding complaints from consumers against traders. It will be up to Member States to adjust their internal legislation in accordance with the Directive before July 9, 2015.

More ambitious is the Regulation (EU) 524/2013, which seeks to eliminate much of the trade barriers on the internet. Unlike the Directive, it covers both complaints from consumers and from traders and is expected to create a digital platform for the resolution of conflicts. The procedure will start on-line with a complaint and subsequently the parties must agree about which RAL entity will resolve the dispute. The regulation shall enter into force on the 9th of January 2016.

The introduction of these two instruments will no doubt be an important tool in the consolidation of safe international transactions.

Article by Mark Athos Franklin, native English lawyer at the Rodriguez Bernal law firm.
Rodriguez Bernal has ample experience dealing with both national and international consumer disputes. For more information, visit our website at http://www.rodriguezbernal.com/2011  or contact us directly at mathos@rodriguezbernal.com.
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