The Commission works to avoid costly and time-consuming legal procedures to consumers in cross-border disputes

A new report from the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) published by the European Commission shows that the European Small Claims Procedure to resolve small cross-border disputes is often under used. According to the report, this is mainly because judges are not aware of the procedure, something the Commission intends to tackle vigorously.

The European Commission published a new report from the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) which shows that the European Small Claims Procedure, which is one of the solutions available to resolve cross-border disputes in cases involving €2,000 or less, and available since 1 January 2009, is often under used. In July 2011, the European Commission also proposed a new Europe-wide preservation order to ease the recovery of cross-border debts for both citizens and businesses.

The European Small Claims Procedure is straightforward and free of charge. However, the enforcement of the judgment resulting from this procedure is often protracted by the losing party. As a consequence, only a minority of the positive rulings made by the courts in consumers' home countries, are actually enforced across borders. When action is necessary to get a decision enforced in the country of the trader and in accordance with the laws of this country, consumers often abandon the procedure because the process for national enforcement is complex and can be expensive.

In the light of this outcome, the Commission announced that it will work with Member States to ensure enforcement of the European Small Claims Procedure and develop awareness of it. More consumers should know about the procedure and use it, and therefore the Commission will, among others actions, work with court authorities to promote awareness of the procedure, and issue a guide providing practical advice to consumers and legal practitioners in 2012.