Mediation of consumer disputes
Verified 27 October 2023 - Legal and Administrative Information Directorate (Prime Minister)
In the event of a dispute concerning the performance of a contract of sale or service, the trader must offer the consumer reach to an agreement without the intervention of the judge. This alternative dispute resolution procedure is called mediation. It involves the intervention of a mediator whose task is to propose a solution enabling the dispute to be resolved amicably.
Disputes compatible with mediation
Mediation of consumer disputes applies to all disputes between a consumer and a trader on the occasion of a contract for the sale or supply of services.
The obligation to use mediation applies regardless of size and professional sector company (e.g. food trade, online sales, property management, construction, insurance, press, IT).
These may include:
- National litigation : when the contract at issue was concluded, the consumer was resident in the same State than the place of establishment of the trader.
- Cross-border disputes : when the contract at issue was concluded, the consumer was resident in another State than the place of establishment of the trader.
All clause or an agreement which obliges the consumer, in the event of a dispute, to resort to mediation before bringing the matter before the court is prohibited.
In case of cross-border dispute in Europe, the consumer can use the European Consumer Center (ECC).
Thanks to its network present in every country of theEU, in the United Kingdom, Iceland and Norway, the EQF responds to consumers' questions and helps them in their efforts.
Disputes not compatible with mediation
However, mediation of consumer disputes does not apply in the following cases:
- Dispute between professionals
- Consumer complaint to the trader's customer service
- Direct negotiation between consumer and trader
- Attempt at conciliation or mediation ordered by a court seised of the consumer dispute
- Proceedings brought by a trader against a consumer
- Disputes relating to non-market services of general interest provided by an administration or association, for example
- Disputes involving health services provided by health professionals to patients (including the prescription, administration and supply of drugs or medical devices)
- Dispute concerning services provided by public higher education providers.
A dispute may be examined by the Consumer Ombudsman where all of the following conditions have been completed:
- The consumer justifies having attempted, in advance, to resolve his dispute by means of a written complaint, directly with the trader or his customer service.
- The request is not not manifestly unfounded or abusive.
- The dispute has not previously examined or is not being reviewed by another mediator or by a court.
- The consumer must submit his request to the Ombudsman in a 1-year period from the date of his written complaint to the trader.
- The dispute is compatible with mediation (areas related to health, the general interest or higher education are incompatible with mediation).
The process of consumer mediation cannot be implemented only at the initiative of the consumer, the professional cannot initiate it.
The trader must choose a mediator before the dispute arises and in to inform the consumer.
Choice of mediator
In order to find the mediator authorized to be contacted by his clients, the trader must opt for one of the following methods :
- Be attached to a public sector ombudsman, if it exists in the professional sector (electronic communications, water, energy, insurance, tourism)
- Use the federation ombudsman of which the trader is a member
- Sign a agreement with an association or business of mediators : for example, the Center for Mediation and Arbitration of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris (CMAP) or the CNPM Mediation Consumption.
- Set up a internal company mediator : the ombudsman must be appointed by a collegiate body composed of at least 2 representatives of authorized consumer associations and at least 2 representatives of the trader. No hierarchical or functional link between the trader and the mediator may exist during the exercise of his task of mediation.
In either case, the consumer ombudsman appointed by the trader must be included in a list of accredited mediators by the Commission for the Evaluation and Supervision of Consumer Mediation (CECMC). The Ombudsman is appointed for 3 years.
Who shall I contact
The trader must communicate to the consumer the contact details of the mediator the consumer (name, address and website) to which it belongs. This information is part of the mandatory particulars must be on a professional's website.
the trader must also provide a link to the European Online Dispute Resolution Platform (ODR.).
He must enter this information, in a visible and legible manner, on its website and its commercial documents (GCS and purchase orders). In the absence of such media, any other appropriate means is permitted (e.g. by display).
The trader must inform the consumer 2 times :
- Before the conclusion of the contract
- In the course of the contract, following a prior complaint of the consumer who would not have succeeded.
Failure to comply with this provision shall be punished by an administrative fine of €3,000 for an individual entrepreneur and €15,000 for a business.
Consumer mediation is free of charge. It's the professional which is bears the cost.
The mediator shall inform the trader of his tariffs and financial conditions (per act, package or subscription). Tariffs may change depending on the amount of damage involved.
if the consumer chooses to use the services a lawyer or an expert during the mediation procedure (which is not compulsory), he will pay his own fees.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on their own, the Consumer Ombudsman shall propose, in a 90-day period, a solution for amicable resolution of the dispute. It is up to the parties to accept or refuse it.
In the event of a refusal, the parties may decide to continue their dispute before the judicial judge.
Who shall I contact
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