In the event of a cross-border dispute with a trader established in another EU country, consumers have several options for resolving it out of court or through the courts.
European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net)
The European Consumer Centre of the Czech Republic provides information on consumer rights in the common European market and provides free of charge assistance and advice to consumers in their disputes with traders from other EU countries, Norway and Iceland. It is funded by the European Commission and the Czech Trade Inspection Authority, which is its host structure. The ECC is a member of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net).
Resolving a case through the ECC network is usually the least formalised way of resolving a dispute. The consumer contacts the ECC branch in his/her country of residence. This centre will process the case and, if necessary, forward it to a partner centre in the country where the trader is based for resolution with the trader. The consumer and the trader can thus both communicate in their own language, while the centres share the necessary information on the legislation in their respective countries.
The assistance of the ECC network is based on counselling and mediation. The ECC cannot therefore issue a legally binding decision in a dispute.
For more information or to request assistance in a specific dispute, please contact the ECC Czech Republic:
European Consumer Centre Czech Republic
110 00 Prague
Tel: +420 296 366 155
Out-of-court dispute resolution (ADR) bodies outside the Czech Republic
If you buy goods or order a service from a trader based in another EU country, you should have access to at least one out-of-court consumer dispute resolution body. In practice, it is usually most effective to go to the out-of-court dispute resolution body to which the trader has subscribed or of which he is a member. This may be, for example, a professional association in the industry or an ADR specialising in a particular issue, such as travel. This information should be available on the trader’s website.
If a trader has not chosen the ADR to which it subscribes, it is usually most efficient for consumers to choose an ADR in the state trader´s domicile. The rights and obligations of ADR bodies vary from state to state. Some ADR bodies can issue legally binding decisions, while others cannot. In some cases, the participation of the trader in out-of-court dispute resolution may be mandatory, in others the trader participates only voluntarily. ADR may be free of charge for consumers or may be subject to a fee.
How do I find an out-of-court dispute resolution body abroad?
The list of out-of-court consumer dispute resolution bodies is available on the European Commission’s website.
On this website, you can search for consumer dispute resolution bodies by country and by the subject matter of disputes, they can handle. It is also possible to find out in which language ADR is conducted, whether it is charged and whether the outcome is legally binding. Contact details are also available for each ADR body.
Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)
The European Online Dispute Resolution Platform is run by the European Commission in order to contribute to safer and fairer online shopping through access to quality dispute resolution tools.
After completing the online form, the ODR platform will notify the trader of your request for dispute resolution. The platform then allows direct communication between the trader and the consumer and agreement on the choice of a mutually acceptable out-of-court dispute resolution (ADR) body. The platform cannot issue a legally binding decision on the subject matter of the dispute, its purpose is to facilitate communication between the parties to the dispute and the selection of the ADR entity. If the parties do not reach an agreement within 90 days, the ODR is terminated.
Out-of-court dispute resolution of the Czech Trade Inspection Authority
The Czech Trade Inspection Authority may, at consumer’s request, initiate an out-of-court dispute resolution procedure with an entrepreneur based outside Czechia if the performance of a purchase contract or a contract for the provision of services takes place in the Czech Republic or if the performance of the contract is related to a business activity carried out in the Czech Republic.
Although the conditions for initiating an out-of-court dispute resolution may be met, we recommend consumers to consider one of the alternatives described above in case that the trader is not based in the Czech Republic. Traders are usually not familiar with an out-of-court dispute resolution bodies outside their home country and rarely cooperate with in resolving a dispute. The CTIA cannot issue a legally binding decision in ADR. If the trader is not willing to cooperate in out-of-court dispute resolution, an agreement on the subject matter of the dispute cannot be reached.
Resolving the dispute through the courts
If an out-of-court settlement cannot be found, you may go to court.
If you decide to go to court, you must first determine which country’s courts have jurisdiction over the dispute. In cross-border disputes within the EU, the competent court is determined according to the rules of the Brussels I Regulation. The general rule is that the court of the defendant’s domicile has jurisdiction over the dispute. However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule, including in certain consumer disputes. For example, in the case of delivery of goods to consumer’s home, the court at the place where the goods are delivered can usually decide on a dispute arising out of a contract of sale.
In intra-EU disputes, there are simplified forms of cross-border court proceedings – the European order for payment and small claims procedures.
Further useful information is available on the European Commission’s e-Justice website.
We recommend consulting with an attorney before filing a lawsuit. A list of attorneys is available on the website of the Czech Bar Association.