The MCCAA strengthens Alternative Dispute Resolution
The MCCAA bolstered consumers’ means of redress by strengthening alternative dispute resolution to further place the consumer at the centre of the economy.
The Authority developed a bespoke IT solution, established documented processes in line with international standards, trained personnel and is reaching out to the community through a targeted information and education campaign on the benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution. The initiative with a budget of 120,000 Euro was co-funded by the EU Consumer Programme (2014-2020) and supported by Servizzi Ewropej Malta.
In his speech during the closing conference of the project, Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Hon. Clayton Bartolo underlined the importance of having well equipped systems in place that help consumers obtain a timely and adequate remedy. Hon. Bartolo noted how Alternative Dispute Resolution is an efficient, timely, and cost-effective mechanism to resolve a wide range of consumer disputes out-of-court.
Parliamentary Secretary for Consumer Protection and Public Cleansing Hon. Deo Debattista highlighted that the Authority was strengthened through additional funding and review of its regulatory framework. “This initiative is creating tangible impact on consumers’ everyday life as it empowers consumers in the choice of redress mechanism”.
The MCCAA Chairperson, Inġ. Helga Pizzuto reflected on the role of Authority as an impartial and independent regulator that works in tandem with stakeholders to ensure that fair and balanced solutions prevail. She stated that this initiative is part of a wider set of reforms aiming at digitalizing services and ensuring competence of personnel for the benefit of all stakeholders.
The ADR conference focused on the consumers’ right to redress and the important role of ADR entities to provide specialised support and eventually bring the conflicting parties together with the aim of facilitating an amicable solution without the need to take the dispute to court. Best practices on how ADR functions in different regulated sectors and how this redress technique can be beneficial for businesses were also thoroughly discussed.
Through the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform, the ADR redress mechanism also facilitates resolution of online disputes. This platform, which can be used for both domestic and cross-border disputes, allows consumers to submit their dispute and conduct the ADR procedure online and in any of the EU official languages. The ODR platform only transmits disputes to ADR entities who are included in the national lists of ADR bodies that comply with the binding quality requirements established by the ADR Directive.
A panel composed of professionals representing consumers and business interests debated how ADR can facilitate the building of trust between these two important stakeholders. While from the consumers’ perspective the discussion focused on the benefits of choosing ADR as a means of redress for consumers, the businesses’ representative discussed how local businesses can be encouraged to resolve disputes with consumers through ADR. Also, a member of the panel was a practicing lawyer and an accredited mediator, who explained the difference between a judicial and an ADR process. The panel discussion further focused on the main strengths and limitations of an ADR process.