Raising Awareness on Access to Justice
Raising Awareness on Access to Justice


2012 06 13

Consumers are slow in using the procedures enabling the recovery of money from traders abroad

The research carried out by the Lithuanian Consumer Institute and the Bulgarian National Consumers Association "Active Consumers" has shown that consumers seldom apply to courts in order to recover the money paid for a poor quality product or service purchased abroad or for an undelivered product they ordered and paid online. Most consumers believe that the problems they encounter seeking judicial redress in their own state would increase several times if they had to seek justice abroad. Lack of knowledge, insufficient confidence in procedures, language barrier and cost of the procedures were among the major obstacles noted.

The Research aimed at analysing the implementation of the procedures laid down in two legal acts, the European Order for Payment and the European Small Claims Procedure, in Lithuania and Bulgaria and at identifying, by means of a study of secondary data, the potential hindrances impeding the effective use of such procedures by consumers.

Opportunities to enforce your rights in a simplified procedure

The research has demonstrated that the European order for payment and the European small claims procedure make it possible for consumers to resolve their pecuniary disputes with traders in other EU member states easier, faster and cheaper. The major advantage of both procedures for consumers is that the lawyer's involvement is not required; consumers may use standardised forms and apply directly to a national court or a court of the trader's state for a decision in a cross-border dispute. The decisions rendered by the court may be immediately submitted for enforcement to a bailiff or any other equivalent official in the territory of the whole European Union (except Denmark).

When can consumers enforce their rights for a refund of money?

For example, a Lithuanian consumer would be able to apply to court for a refund of the money, if he/she has ordered and paid for the product online from a German manufacturer, but the product has not been delivered. As the dispute is cross-border, the consumer may apply to Lithuanian or German courts following the simplified procedure. 

About hindrances encountered by consumers

Irrespective of the above-referred advantages of these procedures, there are certain limitations, for example: the consumer may use the European order for payment procedure only when his/her monetary claim is clear and the other party (the seller or the service provider) does not dispute it, while the European small claims procedure is limited by the claim amount of EUR 2 000, excluding interest, expenses and disbursements. Such requirements restrict consumers in their access to courts in cross-border disputes under the simplified procedure.

Although the procedures for handling consumer disputes with traders established in other EU member states are standardised, the research has revealed, on the basis of the Lithuanian and Bulgarian practice, that there are still some procedural differences, such as time-limits, competent courts, etc.

About the Research

The research is one of the activities of the Project "Raising Awareness on Access to Justice" carried out by the Lithuanian Consumer Institute and the Bulgarian National Consumers Association "Active Consumers". The Project is financed by the 2007-2013 specific programme "Civil Justice" of the European Commission, the Lithuanian Consumer Institute, the Bulgarian National Consumers Association "Active Consumers" and by the national budget funds of the Republic of Lithuania 

More information about the Project and the Research is available on the website of the Lithuanian Consumer Institute.

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