Conciliation committees

Conciliation committees

Conciliation commissions under the Law on Consumer Protection (LCP) and the Conciliation Commission for Payment Disputes under the Law on Payment Services and Payment Systems (LPSPS) were established.

The conciliation commissions under the LCP were established to the regional offices of the Commission for Consumer Protection. Conciliation commissions are designed to assist in resolving disputes between consumers and merchants in connection with the warranty liability, the right to return of goods or services, and unfair terms in contracts, business practices and contracts concluded by consumers. Conciliation commissions promote amicable settlement of disputes between consumers and merchants by agreement between the parties to the dispute.

Any conciliation commission has three members, including a representative of the Commission for Consumer Protection, who is the Chairman of the Commission, one representative of a non-governmental organization representing the interests of merchants and manufacturers, and a representative of a consumer association.

In case of dispute, consumers can turn to the Conciliation Commission for cooperation in resolving the dispute by submitting an application to the Chairman of the Commission for Consumer Protection, who sets a date for a conciliation meeting. The conciliation proceedings are free for the consumer.

The Conciliation Commission for Payment Disputes decides on consumer complaints on remittances from banks or other persons who carry out transactions as a part of their business and on the issuance and use of electronic payment instruments (credit cards) between banks and other issuers of such instruments. It includes three members - Chairman of the Commission, designated by the Manager of the Bulgarian National Bank, and one member from each respective list, approved by a representative organization of the banks and the CCP. Members are appointed by the Chairman on a rotating basis, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Commission.

With the supplements to the Law on Consumer Protection, adopted in March 2011, other means of dispute resolution was introduced in order to expedite the proceedings – through an individual mediator. This is the third qualified independent person - an employee of the CCP who assists consumers and merchants in resolving the dispute in agreement.

Both ways of conciliation act are in compliance with the principles of legality, impartiality, transparency and efficiency. These principles require that the mediator or the participants in the conciliation commissions are not bound to any of the parties to the dispute in relations that may cast doubt on their impartiality and guarantee the right of the consumer and the merchant to fully and equally participate in the proceedings. The principles also provide a quick and efficient mediation and ensure adherence to law in every stage of production.

Participation in the conciliation commissions and mediation procedure is voluntary and either party is free to not accept or withdraw at any time, without any negative consequences for them. Successful mediation, however, allows the dispute to be resolved permanently and saves a lot of time and costs, thus ensuring peace and satisfaction of consumers and guaranteeing that participating merchants will keep their good reputation.