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Advice centre helps sharpen consumers' teeth to sue traders in a different European country

Posted 16/04/14

Action is being taken by consumer advice organisation the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) to help consumers living in the UK understand how to make a claim against a trader based in a different European country.
A report by the European Consumer Centres Network released in September 2012 said that although the European Small Claims Procedure is user-friendly, it is often under-used. The report found that the procedure is relatively unknown, not only among consumers but among judges as well.
Now the UK ECC (part of the ECC Network) is releasing a step-by-step guide to the European Small Claims Procedure, designed to show consumers that just because a trader is based in another EU country (except Denmark) doesn't mean that they can't be pursued in the courts.
Andy Allen, UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) Director, said: “Although this procedure has been available since January 2009, it's a shame that more consumers and more judges, lawyers and court staff across the EU haven't known of its existence. It's a shame because the European Small Claims Procedure is one way consumers can effectively enforce their rights in resolving cross-border disputes in cases involving less than €2,000. And it's a shame because if consumers had known about it, more of them could have taken advantage of what is designed to avoid difficult, costly and time-consuming legal procedures. 
"European consumers should feel secure when buying goods and services in the single market without facing extra risks. In case of problems, if consumers have been unable to sort the difficulty out themselves, they can ask their European Consumer Centre for advice and support, but ultimately they should be able to pursue their European Small Claims through the courts quickly and easily."
The UK ECC booklet complements a move by the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters (EJN) to increase awareness of the European Small Claims Procedure amongst judges and lawyers. A new practice guide is being published by the European Commission and issued under the umbrella of the EJN. It will be available to all judges and lawyers within the EU, including in the UK.
Andy said: "It's important that the UK ECC acts alongside the European Commission as it works to spread the word about the procedure amongst those involved in the court process. At the moment, how many consumers know that the European Small Claims Procedure exists to empower shoppers across the EU, making the whole process of suing a trader in another EU country quicker, easier and cheaper? We hope our booklet goes some way to addressing that. 
"With this guide in place and with steps to improve knowledge of the procedure amongst judges and lawyers through the EU, awareness concerns raised in the ECC-Net report are being addressed.
“The European Small Claims Procedure effectively strengthens consumers’ rights across the EU, because it eliminates the consumer’s need for legal representation in court and its cost is transparent from the start. Attendance is not normally necessary at court. Courts should always be the last resort and every effort should be made to try to resolve a complaint before starting a claim through the European Small Claims Procedure. But ultimately we hope more UK consumers will make use of this tool. All we would ask is that UK consumers report back to us on their success."
Consumers can download a copy of The European Small Claims Procedure booklet from the UK ECC's website - http://www.ukecc.net - and copies have been printed for consumers who request hard copies. 
UK consumers can use the advice and support of the UK European 
 Consumer Centre if they have a dispute with a trader based in an EU country outside the UK – 08456 04 05 03 between 10am and 3pm or http://www.ukecc.net/
Notes to Editors
For further information please contact UK European Consumer Centre’s press office on 08456 08 96 06.

  • UK European Consumer Centre consumer complaint line – 08456 04 05 03 

The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 30 centres covering Europe, plus Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK. The Network will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.

 UK ECC can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel. 

UK ECC is co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and the European Commission. 

 The UK ECC service is delivered by the Trading Standards Institute (www.tsi.org.uk)

 Media queries should sent to ecc@tsi.org.uk or by phone on 08456 08 96 06.

  • The UK ECC provides advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK and will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.
  • Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 08456 04 05 03 weekdays between 10am and 3pm.
  • If in doubt before you buy, contact our sister organisation – the European Consumer Centre for Services – for pre-purchasing advice: www.ukecc-services.net

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