CEPI meets... Maria-Cristina Russo

CEPI recently interviewed Ms Maria-Cristina Russo, Head of Unit Financial Services and Redress at the European Commission Health and Consumers DG, about the upcoming proposals on alternative dispute resolution (ADR). We first asked Ms Russo why legislation is needed in this area... 

On that point she emphasized three problems related to gaps in the internal market: First of all, consumers believe that they don’t have adequate means of redress at their disposal when they buy cross-border. Second, competition is distorted because consumers are inclined to make purchases in countries in which they know they have access to means of redress. Finally, she added that differences in dealing with disputes related to online cross-border transactions also remain a problem. Legislation could help to solve those problems.

Concerning the details of the legislation, she said that orientations still need to be formally validated by the Commission. The plan is to put forward the legislation around mid-November 2011. The digital agenda also foresees legislation on online dispute resolution by 2012. A package of two proposals are being prepared: The first one will put forward a framework directive on ADR, containing an obligation to establish such systems where they don’t exist; the second one would be either a regulation or a decision, which will create a system of online dispute resolution to support the national networks of ADR (via a European platform).

CEPI stressed that consumer confidence is key in the property sector and asked how the ADR system could make consumers more confident. Ms Russo underlined that the Commission wants to see an ADR system for each sector and that the property sector is indeed one of the most important financially for consumers. She added that it is therefore vital to fill the gaps where ADR does not exist. She insisted on the fact that the Commission has to solve this problem in close dialogue with the national systems. She believes that having a system of ADR in the property sector means more confidence and a better protection for consumers.

She finally underlined the fact that the upcoming legislation should not be seen as an attempt to impose a greater burden on professionals, but as a means of making commercial relationships work better. The ADR system can solve disputes quickly and cheaply.

Read the full interview