Holidaymakers to get better rights abroadEuropean Parliament expected to endorse process

05 June 2006

Better rights for British holidaymakers who return home to find they've bought faulty goods elsewhere in Europe have taken a step forward.

The European Small Claims Procedure (ESCP) is set to streamline the process for taking legal action if you've bought shoddy goods from a shop on the Continent, whether in person or online.

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 and means getting a lawyer involved.

Which? evidence

Which? submitted evidence to the government on the plans. This showed that consumers were struggling with a system which required them to get two lawyers and deal with a court abroad. We believed many were giving up their claims.

Since European Justice Ministers met recently, the text of the plans has been agreed, and includes the evidence from Which?.

Which? Principal Campaigns Lawyer Ingrid Gubbay said: 'Which? has been campaigning for years to make it easier for consumers to get cross-boarder redress when they have problems with a timeshare, holiday or goods brought abroad. We're delighted that the evidence Which? submitted has been included in the final plans.'

Video conferencing

The new system will cover claims valued at less than 2,000 euros. Claim and defence forms will be the same in all the European languages and courts will be encouraged to decide claims on paper where possible, using phone or video conferencing if oral hearings are felt necessary.

Parties won't need to be legally represented if they don't want to be, and the process for enforcing judgements in other EU states will become easier.

The proposals will now go to the European Parliament and are expected to be endorsed, but there's no date yet for when they might come into force.

In March, the Court of Appeal ruled that shoppers who bought items abroad on their credit card were entitled to the same level of protection from their card provider as those who bought items in the UK. This means that if you spend more than GBP 100 on your credit card on an item abroad, if something goes wrong - for example the item was faulty - you can claim from your credit card company rather than the shop.