Developments and Issues in Consumer ADR and Consumer Ombudsmen in Europe
Christopher Hodges
Developments and Issues in Consumer ADR and Consumer Ombudsmen in Europe

This policy brief outlines major developments and issues in consumer dispute resolution systems in Europe that were highlighted at the conference CONSUMER ADR: Delivering Fairness and Justice for Consumers, Business and Markets held at Wolfson College, Oxford on 18 and 19 March 2019.

The principal findings include:

  • There is considerable evolution in the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) schemes in some countries. A notable feature is that many of the ADR schemes are placing increased emphasis on integrating mediation into their pre-existing arbitration-style procedures.
  • Many countries continue to find it a challenge to get more businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to adopt ADR schemes. Equally, many consumers are either unaware of ADR or imagine it to be an advisory service rather than an independent dispute resolution service.
  • There is a clear division between EU Member States that have sophisticated CDR schemes ― and, despite the differences between States, are improving their mechanisms ― and those States that have very undeveloped Consumer Dispute Resolution (CDR provision).
  • The national landscapes of ADR bodies continue to present problems, notably lack of full coverage and low consumer confidence in the current system.
  • Ombudsmen are the leading model of CDR, since they typically operate as part of the system of market regulation as well as the national system of dispute resolution.There is increasing realization that ‘consumer ADR’ is something specific and should have its own architecture.