The Catalan Ombudsman urges the authorities to accelerate the transposition of the 2013 Directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution. The Catalan Ombudsman, a member of NEON, also proposes to act in arbitration cases where the services can affect basic consumer rights.
On Thursday 19 January, a workshop organised by the Ombudsman and business representatives at the headquarters of the ombudsman institution in Barcelona made clear that the Spanish Administration and, if appropriate, the Catalan Administration, should speed up the transposition of the European Directive on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes (ADR).
During this event, the role that the Ombudsman should have in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) affecting consumer services and basic services of general interest was also discussed, given the special protection required by consumers of basic services of general or universal interest under Spanish and Catalan laws.
The new law will also preserve the independence of bodies acting as mediators.
According to the Ombudsman, the impact of the new regulations on the rights of people to basic services of general/universal interest needs to be considered, since the position of the consumer is not the same as in a standard consumption relationship. The Catalan legislature has already considered this peculiarity in the Catalan Consumer Code, which gives consumers a special protection for basic services.
The ADR Directive ensures that consumers have access to ADR for resolving their contractual disputes with traders. Access to ADR is ensured no matter what product or service they purchased (only disputes regarding health and higher education are excluded), whether the product or service was purchased online or offline and whether the trader is established in the consumer’s Member State or in another one. This Directive also established binding quality requirements for dispute resolution bodies offering ADR procedure to consumers.
The lack of transposition of the Directive prevents consumers in Spain to access alternative dispute resolution bodies, and neither can they in Croatia, Romania and Poland, according to the European Commission.