Settlement of consumer disputes in and out of court

Settlement of consumer disputes in and out of court

The alternative resolution of disputes arising between consumers and traders constitutes an out-of-court conciliation procedure in which parties participate on a voluntary basis. Dedicated conciliation committees provide alternative resolution of disputes services.

These conciliation committees may be sectoral or general, depending on the subject matter that they handle and the region in which they operate.

Main advantages:

- Аlternative resolution of disputes does not entail costs for the parties. The only fees payable are those for representation, expert reports, expert translation/interpretation, etc., but none of these are mandatory;

- Аlternative resolution of disputes procedures are concluded promptly, i.e. within 90 days, with a conciliation proposal.

An alternative resolution of disputes procedure begins after an application has been submitted using one of the following channels:

the Conciliation Committee section on the website of the Consumer Protection Commission;

by fax, post or in person at the head office of the Consumer Protection Commission or one of its local offices;

 - the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform.

Where a dispute is dealt with by a general conciliation committee, the conciliation procedure takes place at the committee in whose territory the consumer has their permanent address.

Conciliation procedures falling within the scope of sectoral conciliation committees take place in Sofia. Where an application is submitted by a consumer who does not have their permanent address in the Republic of Bulgaria or is received via the ODR platform, the conciliation procedure takes place in Sofia.

The parties to a dispute are not required to be present since conciliation committees deal with disputes during in camera meetings and on the basis of documents, evidence, expert reports and opinions provided by the parties. Where strictly necessary, the relevant general or sectoral conciliation committee may require the parties to be heard with a view to clarifying facts and circumstances of significance to the proper resolution of the dispute.

A dispute is dealt with on the merits no later than 90 days after the periods for receiving all documents and observations and conducting the inquiry have elapsed. For cases of factual or legal complexity, the period above may be extended by 20 working days.

No later than 2 weeks after it has examined the substance of a dispute, the relevant conciliation committee draws up and adopts a conciliation proposal, which it then sends to the parties.

Each party to the dispute is entitled to receive the proposal and to either accept or reject it. The proposal is considered formally accepted when a written statement to that effect is sent to the relevant general or sectoral conciliation committee within 10 days of the proposal’s receipt. Where both parties accept a proposal, it becomes binding on them.

Disputes for which a conciliation proposal has been drawn up are not re-examined, regardless of whether the parties have accepted the proposal.


Protection of the collective interests of consumers

When consumers' interests have been violated by the use of unfair trade practices, unfair terms in contracts concluded with consumers or as a result of violation of the legislation on consumer protection by traders, consumers can contact the Commission for Consumer Protection or associations for consumer protection regarding claims for cessation or prohibition of violations.