Amicable resolution of disputes between companies and consumers

This page was last modified on 25-11-2016

Professionals or companies who encounter a problem with a consumer are not required to go to court to resolve it. They may consult a specialised body to try to reach an amicable agreement. In this way, they can be assured that their problem will be handled out-of-court in a simple, quick and inexpensive manner.

The entities in charge of the amicable resolution of disputes between consumers and professionals or companies must be independent, efficient and competent. The Ministry of the Economy shall ascertain whether these bodies meet these conditions. If they do, they are added to a list compiled by the Ministry of the Economy. The bodies included in this list may inform the public of this status.

If the dispute concerns a matter for which there is no specialised office that meets the legal requirements, the professional may contact a general department called the Mediator of consumption, which handles all disputes for which there is no specialised office. 

Recourse to out-of-court dispute resolution is unrestricted: consumers are under no obligation to try to settle problems out of court. They can go directly to court to obtain a ruling.

Who is concerned

Any consumer (natural person) who is a resident of Luxembourg or another EU country and is involved in a dispute with a professional or company (natural person or legal entity) established in Luxembourg. The conflict must result from a sales or service contract.

Any professional or company (carrying out commercial, industrial or artisanal activities or practising one of the liberal professions) whether a natural person or legal entity, may also refer a contractual dispute with a consumer residing in Luxembourg to an out-of-court dispute resolution body, if permitted by this body.

Complaints made by a consumer against another consumer, or by a professional or company against another professional or company are excluded.

Prerequisites

Contracts excluded from the rules on out-of-court resolution of consumer disputes

The rules on out-of-court resolution of consumer disputes do not apply:

  1. to out-of-court settlement procedures if the natural persons in charge of dispute resolution are employed or paid exclusively by the professional or company concerned;
  2. to complaint processing systems managed directly by the professional or company;
  3. to non-economic services of general interest provided by the State or other public authorities;
  4. to conflicts between professionals or companies;
  5. to direct negotiations between consumers and professionals or companies;
  6. to attempts made by a court to settle a dispute in the course of legal proceedings;
  7. to healthcare services provided by healthcare professionals (doctors, hospitals, etc.) to patients to assess, maintain or restore their state of health, including the prescription, administration and provision of medication and medical devices;
  8. to public providers of post-secondary or higher education.

These rules must be designed so as not to substantially impede consumer access to out-of-court resolution procedures for consumer disputes.

Grounds on which a case may be refused

Out-of-court dispute resolution entities may refuse to handle a case for one of the following reasons:

    1. the claimant has not attempted to contact the other party to discuss the claim and try to resolve the problem directly;
    2. the dispute has no justification, real or otherwise;
    3. the dispute has been or is being processed by another body for amicable dispute resolution, an arbitration court or a judicial court in Luxembourg or abroad;
    4. the complaint concerns an amount that is less or greater than a predetermined financial threshold; this threshold must not substantially impede consumer access to out-of-court resolution procedures for consumer disputes;
    5. the claimant has not lodged the complaint with the entity within the time frame set by this entity; this time frame must be a period of at least one year from the date on which the complaint was made to the other party;
    6. processing the problem would severely impede the operations of the out-of-court dispute resolution entity;
    7. the claim does not involve a dispute between a consumer and a professional or company resulting from a contract.
These reasons vary from one body to another. It is recommended that you seek information from the body concerned in advance.

Duration and deadlines

The parties must be informed of whether the body has accepted or refused to handle the case within three weeks of receiving the full claim. This information must be provided in writing or on another durable medium (e.g. by email). If the case is refused, the body must explain the reasons for this refusal.

The consumer and the professional or company must have enough time to express their point of view and to submit the documents.

The entity has 90 days to help the parties to arrive at an amicable solution to their conflict or to propose another solution to them. It must inform the parties of this solution in writing or on another durable medium (e.g. by email). If the entity decides that the problem is very complicated, the 90-day period may be exceeded. In this case, it must inform the parties of the new time frame.

Costs

Referring cases to out-of-court settlement bodies is free or subject to minimal costs.

How to proceed

General rules

Each body follows its own specific set of procedures. Information should therefore be sought from the body concerned.

The main rules are as follows:

  • the entity must have a website informing professionals about its operating rules. Anyone may request to receive the operating rules from the body on a durable medium (e.g. in writing or by email);
  • professionals may contact the office in question via the internet or by other means;
  • the parties may communicate by email or by post;
  • the parties do not need to hire lawyers. However, they may seek assistance or guidance from a person of their choosing. The out-of-court resolution entity must inform them of this right before initiating the procedure.

Terminating an amicable resolution procedure

The parties can withdraw from the procedure at any time. They must inform the other party and the out-of-court resolution entity of this within a reasonable time frame, in writing or on a durable medium (e.g. by email).

Before the procedure is initiated, the out-of-court resolution entity must inform the parties of their right to withdraw from the procedure at any time.

Accepting or refusing a proposal made by an amicable resolution entity

Before accepting a solution proposed by the entity, the consumer and the professional or company must be informed:

  • of the possibility to accept or decline the proposed solution;
  • of the possibility to go to court despite having tried to settle their problem out of court;
  • of the possibility that the solution proposed may be different to a decision made by a court applying the law;
  • of the possible legal implications if they accept the proposal.

The consumer and the professional or company have a reasonable amount of time for reflection before accepting the solution proposed or an amicable agreement

Confidentiality

All information and documents submitted or received in the course of the settlement are confidential.

Information that the professional or company must give to the consumer

Obligations of professionals and companies for whom amicable resolution is compulsory, and those of professionals and companies who enter into such procedures voluntarily

Out-of-court resolution of consumer disputes is compulsory for professionals and companies if they belong to an association that provides for this obligation.

Amicable settlement can be opted for voluntarily: this is the case when the professional or company has decided to use this type of dispute resolution before concluding the contract.

If a professional or company established in Luxembourg belongs to one of these two categories, it must provide the consumer, before the contract is concluded, with information on the out-of-court dispute resolution entity competent to settle a dispute relating to it. This information shall include, as a minimum, the website address of the body concerned.

The information on the out-of-court resolution entity must be clear and easily understandable for consumers. This information must be readily available on the website of the professional or company, if such a website exists. If the professional or company has standard general terms and conditions, the information on the out-of-court resolution entity must also feature in these.

For online purchases, consumers must also be informed of the possibility to use an online dispute resolution platform to settle their conflicts with the professional or company. This platform, which is managed by the European Commission, helps consumers find out-of-court dispute resolution bodies.

The professional or company must add a link to the platform on its website. If an offer is made by email, it must also provide the platform's website in the email. If the professional or company has standard terms and conditions, this information must also be included in these.

Obligations of all professionals and companies

If a consumer has directly contacted a professional or company established in Luxembourg and the problem has not been settled, the professional or company must provide the consumer with information on competent out-of-court resolution entities to handle the problem. It must inform the consumer of whether or not it agrees to refer the case to this entity. This information must be given on paper or on another durable medium (e.g. by email). This obligation applies to all professionals and companies, even to those who are not required to use or do not voluntarily submit themselves to out-of-court dispute settlement bodies.

For online purchases, all professional or companies and online sales platforms must also display a link on their website to the European platform for online dispute resolution. Consumers must be able to find this link easily. Online retailers must also indicate their email address.

Proof

If the consumer complains that the professional or company failed to communicate information about amicable dispute resolution, it is the responsibility of the professional or company to prove that it gave the information to the consumer and that the information is accurate. A clause in the general terms and conditions or the contract obliging the consumer to provide proof shall be regarded as unfair and may therefore be declared void at the consumer's request.

Freedom to settle disputes out of court

The consumer and the professional or company cannot be forced to settle their disputes out of court.

A professional or company may not request that consumers commit themselves to using the services of an out-of-court resolution entity before any actual disputes materialise, if this rules out the possibility for the consumer to take the matter to court.

However, if the professional or company is a member of an association that obliges it to refer a dispute to an out-of-court resolution body for consumer disputes, it must agree to submit itself to it if the consumer is in agreement or requests it.

Statute of limitations

Limitation refers to expiry of a time period at the end of which someone can no longer go to court.

Out-of-court resolution may take some time if a problem is complicated or if the parties do not reach an agreement. During this time, the limitation period is suspended.

In other words, consumers attempting to settle a dispute amicably does not lose their right to go to court.

Who to contact

6, rue du Palais de Justice
Ancien Hôtel de la Monnaie
L-1841 - Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Phone: (+352) 46 13 11
Fax: (+352) 46 36 03
Email info@mediateurconsommation.lu

Opening hours
Monday to Friday from 09.00 - 12.00 and 14.00 - 17.00
55, rue des Bruyères
L-1274 - Howald
Luxembourg
Phone: (+352) 49 60 22-1
Fax: (+352) 49 49 57
Email info@ulc.lu

Opening hours
from 8.00 to 12.00 and 13.00 to 17.00
2A, rue Kalchesbrück
L-1852 - Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Phone: (+352) 26 84 64-1
Fax: (+352) 26 84 57 61
Email info@cecluxembourg.lu

Opening hours
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 09.00 to 16.00 / Wednesday from 09.00 to 13.00