Consumers, in the event of a dispute, appeal to mediation!

On the occasion of the third anniversary of consumer mediation, Bercy draws a mixed assessment of this device, which according to him is nevertheless gaining more awareness among consumers and businesses alike.

Have you ever had a subscription or box termination problem? Have you ever challenged the management fees imposed by your bank? For all these conflicting situations between a consumer and a business, an extrajudicial solution exists: mediation. A few weeks before the third anniversary of the, Bercy presented this Thursday a mixed assessment of the device and expressed the wish that this still too little known solution will gain momentum in the months to come.

Established in response to the “relating to the out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes” and effective since early 2016, consumer mediation aims to “contribute to the proper functioning of the internal market” while strengthening consumer confidence in businesses, as well as ” by helping the latter to better meet the expectations of their customers. At present, however, the device is “insufficiently known to consumers and insufficiently applied by professionals”, recognizes the head of the General Directorate for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF), Virginie Beaumeunier .

Too few requests

This lack of information leads to a double problem: not all companies comply with the legal obligation to have a mediator and they do not sufficiently inform their clients about its existence. For their part, consumers do not make enough use of a process that they wrongly imagine to be cumbersome, expensive and slow. Certain sectors, moreover, “do not play the game” and regularly refuse mediation, often because it is not covered by the defense and recourse guarantee of their professional insurance. Architects, home repair, and construction are all bad students.

The results are therefore mixed: in 2017 only 104,000 referrals were received by the mediators, of which only 40% were deemed admissible. Most of the requests were rejected because consumers had not tried to resolve their dispute directly with the company beforehand (72%) or because the dispute did not fall within the jurisdiction of the mediator ( 21%). An overall low number of requests, deemed insufficient by the ministry.

Towards a rise

The president of the Commission for the evaluation and control of consumer mediation (CECMC), Claude Nocquet, therefore pleads for better information in order to allow the process to gain momentum. “Today, 90% of business sectors have at least one mediator,” she adds, covering a large portion of the French economy, from veterinarians to banks to the automobile.

Because the DGCCRF ensures that this too little used process “works”: nearly 85% of referrals deemed admissible in 2017 led to an agreement between the parties, and the simple fact of appealing to the mediator pushes companies to seek a resolution. conflict. Mediator in the electronic communications sector, Claire Mialaret is positive: “Out of 13,000 cases received over the year, we deemed 6000 admissible and our opinions were delivered in less than three months”. In 80% of cases, the mediator’s proposal “benefits the consumer”, and the opinions are “almost 100%” respected by the main telecom operators, including SFR, Bouygues and Orange. Conversely, Free only accepts decisions in 68% of cases.

The work of the mediators has also relieved the congestion of the courts: “Our efforts have practically eliminated disputes relating to electronic communications of the TGI”, rejoices Claire Mialaret. The general secretary of SFR, Arthur Dreyfus, agrees: “the mediation has helped us to become aware of the difficulties which we could have with our customers”, according to him. Out of 20 million customers this year, SFR managed 2,500 mediations, “a figure down from previous years,” adds the executive, who explains this progress by the efforts of the company.

The message of the CECMC is therefore clear: “to remove fears” around the device. “That professionals be reassured: there will be no explosion in the number of referrals or disputes from their customers”, reassures a speaker, who calls on citizens to use the tool.

There remains the thorny question of the independence of mediators, some of them being paid by companies. How, then, to ensure the impartiality of their judgment? For Claude Nocquet, this understandable consumer concern is taken into account. Upstream, the CVs of the mediators are scrutinized, and they can be auditioned up to three times before their application is accepted. Downstream, checks are carried out by the DGCCRF and the CECMC, which responds to consumer requests. The European Commission also keeps an eye on nominations. Finally, rules make it possible to ensure the independence of the mediator, who must, for example, be “clearly separated from the professional’s operational bodies”, and who must respect a period of three years before returning to work for the company. who employed him as a mediator.

What does consumer mediation consist of?

The mediation of the consumption makes it possible to bring an amicable solution to a conflict between a consumer and a company. The mediator can be contacted if the client has already tried to solve his problem directly with the company, and if he has not yet taken legal action. In the event of failure of the procedure, the individual retains the possibility of turning to the courts to initiate proceedings against the offending company.

Free for consumers, the device allows one of the 86 mediators to listen to the consumer and the company’s versions, then to propose a solution. The procedure operates on a voluntary basis: in other words, both the company and the consumer can refuse the intervention of a mediator or the solution he proposes. The procedure lasts a maximum of 90 days, and the referral is made online or by post. There are associations of mediators, sectoral mediators attached to a federation or an association (insurance, water, veterinary profession, notary) as well as mediators attached to certain companies, such as RATP , CIC, Société Générale or La Poste. Two public mediators are also attached to the AMF as well as to the energy sector.

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