UK businesses embarking on e-commerce may get dragged into a European dispute resolution clearing-house.
A network of national clearing houses to handle e-consumer disputes throughout the European Union could be in place by the end of this year, if proposals from the European Commission are agreed by European Union ministers.
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The plans are contained in a working paper on a European extra-judicial network for settling consumer disputes out of court, and follow proposals made by the Commission last year for the establishment of a comprehensive online dispute settlement service.
The detailed proposals made in the latest paper say that a "single, one-stop national contact point" should be established in each member state, helping dissatisfied consumers with "information and support in making a claim to the out-of-court dispute resolution system in the country where the business from which the products or services were acquired is located".
The paper adds that "the network should be up and running by the second half of this year".
European Union Con-sumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne said, "The development of electronic commerce [is] likely to lead to a higher risk of disputes across frontiers."
He added, "If things go wrong, resorting to traditional litigation is neither practical nor cost-effective for consumers or businesses. We want to have efficient alternate dispute solutions without heavy regulatory procedures."