Safer EU shoppingBetter protection when you buy in Europe

05 December 2005

New measures to streamline European law should make it easier to take legal action if you're sold shoddy goods by a shop based on the Continent.

Ministers say the European Small Claims Procedure (ESCP) - which will apply to consumers who buy goods from any EU country - will provide better protection for internet shoppers and holidaymakers bringing home, say, cheaper electrical goods. However, they have yet to announce a timetable for introducing the new procedure.

Currently, you can only make a legal claim under the system of the country where you bought the goods. This can be slow and expensive, as it often means getting a lawyer involved.

But under the ESCP, if, for example, you order and pay for a cooker in France that doesn't work properly, or isn't delivered, you can make a claim against the supplier through your local county court in the UK using the new simplified process.

The county court would forward the claim directly to the supplier for response, decide the claim and notify you of the outcome. Equally, if you failed to pay for the cooker, the French supplier would be able to bring a claim drafted in English through a court in England and Wales.

See our consumer rights site for a step-by-step guide to using the small claims court.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, said: '...internet shopping is likely to continue to grow at a significant rate. Inevitably, disputes will arise in a small number of cases however we shop.

'The agreements reached today are a significant step closer towards enabling citizens of all EU countries to resolve such disputes more effectively.'