On 12 July 2007, OECD Member countries adopted a Recommendation on Consumer Dispute Resolution and Redress to provide governments with a framework to help consumers resolve disputes and settle claims with business. The framework covers disputes in both domestic and cross-border transactions. It was developed to deal with issues arising from the rapid growth in electronic commerce, but it will also benefit consumers making traditional types of purchases.
The Recommendation is available at www.oecd.org/sti/consumer-policy.
“E-commerce has allowed consumers access to an expanding range of goods and services,” says Michael Jenkin, Chairman of the OECD Committee on Consumer Policy (CCP), which prepared the Recommendation. “Recent studies have shown that consumers may be reluctant to take full advantage of shopping on-line because of concerns about dispute resolution if they are unsatisfied with their purchase. The Recommendation provides a practical approach to address these concerns in a systematic and comprehensive way.” In addition to being Chairman of the CCP, Mr. Jenkin is the Director General of the Office of Consumer Affairs, Industry Canada.
The Recommendation aims at addressing the current practical and legal obstacles to pursuing remedies in consumer cases, whether locally or cross-border contexts. The Recommendation comes at a time when Member countries are paying increased attention to dispute resolution and redress mechanisms, and in particular collective action mechanisms. The Recommendation focuses on five priority areas for attention: identifying basic elements needed for effective domestic resolution and redress frameworks; improving resolution of cross-border disputes; enhancing the scope and effectiveness of private sector initiatives to resolve disputes; developing information for monitoring developments and trends in consumer complaints; and improving consumer and business education and awareness on ways to avoid and handle disputes.
The domestic framework calls on governments to provide consumers with mechanisms allowing them to act individually, such as alternative dispute resolution services and simplified procedures for small claims courts, or collectively, such as actions initiated by a consumer in his name and representing other consumers. It also covers actions initiated by consumer organisations representing consumers, actions initiated by consumer protection enforcement authorities acting as representative parties for consumers. Consumer protection enforcement authorities may obtain or facilitate redress on behalf of consumers, allowing them to seek court orders in civil and criminal proceedings and to act as a representative party in lawsuits seeking redress. In the context of cross-border disputes, the Recommendation calls on Member countries to improve awareness of, and access to, dispute resolution and redress mechanisms and to enhance the effectiveness of remedies.
The Recommendation builds on the previous 1999 OECD Guidelines for Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce, which call for further development of dispute resolution mechanisms, and the 2003 OECD Guidelines for Protecting Consumers from Fraudulent and Deceptive Commercial Practices Across Borders, which specifically recommend further work on consumer redress. The Recommendation is based on a Report on Consumer Dispute Resolution and Redress in the Global Marketplace which includes a Member country survey and a summary of the OECD Workshop on Consumer Dispute Resolution and Redress in the Global Marketplace that was held in Washington D.C. in April 2005.
The OECD Media Centre's press release can be found here.
For further information, journalists are invited to contact OECD's Science, Technology and Innovation Directorate on firstname.lastname@example.org).
Press releases in Member countries
Press release from the Consumer Policy Division, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan
In the press:
30 countries move to protect online consumers (Network World)
Protection des consommateurs sur le Net et hors ligne (ARTESI - Agence Régionale des Technologies et des Sociétés de l'Information)