All professionals must propose a mediation procedure for consumer disputes
Following the Ordinance of August 20, 2015 and the Decree of October 30, 2015 which introduced a system of mandatory mediation incumbent upon professionals to the benefit of consumers, the list of mediators for some industrial sectors has finally been published by the Commission controlling consumer mediation.
That list complements that of the professional associations of several industries which have already chosen their own platform (for instance, the hospitality sector has chosen “the Médiation Tourisme et Voyage”; the toy industry has chosen Médycis)
In addition, on February 15, 2016, the European Commission has also launched an online platform to facilitate resolution of any dispute between consumers and professionals related to an online sales.
What is the obligation incumbent upon professionals?
All professionals are bound to make available to consumers a mediation procedure (i) either by implementing their own procedure; (ii) or by offering the services of a third party mediator specialized in the area of activity concerned.
Any consumer thus now has the right of recourse to a mediator for the amicable resolution of any contractual dispute (national or transnational) with a professional.
Only health services, services of non-economic general-interest and public providers of further education fall outside of the scope of the text.
How is the mediation procedure implemented?
The use of mediation remains optional for the consumer: he is never compelled to use it and the professional may not impose this method of dispute resolution on him.
The procedure must be (i) easily accessible electronically or by post, (ii) confidential and (iii) free of charge for the consumer.
The parties have the option, at their own expense, to be represented by a lawyer, assisted by any person of their choice or to seek the opinion of an expert.
Once the request has been referred to the mediator, the latter must propose a solution within 90 days, although this period may be extended in the event of a complex dispute. The parties are free to accept or reject the proposed solution and, if necessary, to bring their request before the courts.
What are the sanctions in the case of non-compliance with these provisions?
Non-compliance with these new obligations is sanctioned by an administrative fine of up to 15,000 euros for legal entities.
What to do?
The professionals must adapt their T&Cs (online and offline) and any other means they use (purchase orders for example) without delay by adding a mediation clause indicating clearly and visibly the consumers’ right of recourse to mediation and the contact details of the competent mediator(s) (full name, address, phone number, email, website).
In order to negotiate good financial conditions, some industries have chosen a mediation platform. When that is not the case, the mediator can be chosen in the list published by the Commission controlling consumer mediation.