Cooperation Agreement between the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen


In 2001, the Nordic consumer ombudsmen signed an agreement to enhance co-operation on consumer protection matters.

The agreement, which establishes a closer co-operation between the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen, has been made in order to protect the Nordic consumers against unreasonable marketing.

The agreement obliges the Consumer Ombudsmen to conduct lawsuits on behalf of each other and to exchange information about marketing across the national borders.

The Act on actions for injunctions for the protection of consumers' interests, which came into force on January 1st  2001, gives the authorities and organizations in the EU the possibility of conducting lawsuits and protecting consumer interests across national borders. For instance the Danish Consumer Ombudsman may, on basis of the Act on actions for injunctions, conduct a lawsuit against a Swedish firm for infringement of a number of consumer regulations. As conducting a lawsuit in a foreign country may involve linguistic as well as procedural problems this Nordic agreement is the first attempt of a practical implementation of the Act on actions for injunctions.  

Cooperation agreement between the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen

Part 1

Purpose

Article 1. The purpose of this Agreement between the Nordic consumer ombudsmen is:

  1. to counter the practical problems related to the options given in Directive 98/27/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (the Injunctions Directive, pdf), as it has been implemented in the individual countries(1), for foreign, designated authorities in the EU/EEA area to take legal proceedings in a number of areas in other countries, and
  2. through exchange of information to promote efficient enforcement of the consumer protection legislation in the Nordic countries.

Article 2. In this Agreement, the following terms are defined as follows:

  1. CO
    The Danish Consumer Ombudsman, the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman, the Finnish Consumer Ombudsman and the Swedish Consumer Ombudsman.
  2. Requesting CO
    The CO (CO’s) who request(s) another CO to take legal proceedings against a company registered in this country.
  3. Conducting CO
    The CO who takes legal proceedings and conducts a case in his own country on behalf of the requesting CO.
  4. The Injunctions Directive
    Directive 98/27/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on injunctions for the protection of consumers’ interests 
  5. Legal proceedings
    Bringing a case before the courts or administrative authorities competent to rule on proceedings of the individual countries.

Part 2

Co-operation on legal proceedings according to the Injunctions Directive

Legal proceedings

Article 3. Within the directives mentioned in Appendix 1, the Nordic Consumer Ombudsmen shall at request take legal proceedings on each others’ behalf in accordance with the provisions of this Agreement.

(2) Legal proceedings according to Article 3(1) can be taken if the requesting and conducting CO’s are both competent authorities to commence proceedings related to the directive which the legal proceedings concern. The CO’s shall keep each other informed about each others’ competence.

(3) Proceedings according to Article 3(1) shall be taken and conducted by the conducting CO on behalf of the requesting CO and according to the procedural law of the conducting CO’s country.

Consultation

Article 4. Before taking legal proceedings, the conducting CO shall usually consult the business affected by the request in order to negotiate for a voluntary solution.

Preparation of the proceedings

Article 5. The requesting CO shall contact the other CO’s to ascertain whether the business in question carries out similar marketing activities in the other Nordic countries and, if so, whether they also want the conducting CO to take legal proceedings on their behalf.

(2) The requesting CO shall collect evidence, account for relevant national substantive law and case law and forward this together with the request to the conducting CO who shall prepare a draft writ of summons which shall be sent to the requesting CO for comments. Besides, the requesting CO shall assist the conducting CO during the preparation of the proceedings.

Translation

Article 6. The conducting CO shall decide which documents need to be translated and shall arrange for translation of such documents.

Decision to take legal proceedings

Article 7. On the basis of advice from the conducting CO, the requesting CO shall decide whether legal proceedings shall be taken.

(2) If the business has been consulted (cf. Article 4), the requesting CO shall decide whether an acceptable voluntary solution has been reached.

Time-limit for legal proceedings

Article 8. As far as possible, the conducting CO shall take legal action not later than three months after the requesting CO’s decision about this, cf. Article 7.

Appeal

Article 9. Having consulted the conducting CO, the requesting CO (CO’s) shall together or separately decide whether to appeal a case to a higher court.

Payment of expenses

Article 10. The requesting CO shall pay the costs which are incurred and which cannot otherwise be covered.

(2) The conducting CO shall not charge the requesting CO with the work carried out by himself. In Denmark, this shall also include the attorney to the Danish Government’s expenses for bringing the case before the court of first instance.

(3) If legal proceedings are taken on behalf of several CO’s, they shall each pay a pro rata share of the costs which they incur pursuant to Article 10(1).

(4) Costs awarded to the opponent shall be distributed in accordance with Article 10(3). (5)  If legal costs from the opponent is awarded to a CO, the costs awarded shall be distributed proportionately on the basis of the costs incurred by the individual CO’s during the proceedings.

Part 3

Co-operation on exchange of information

Exchange of information

Article 11. As far as possible, the parties agree to exchange information within their various areas of activity, e.g. judgments, notes, correspondence in specific cases, information about ongoing projects, interesting articles, reports, negotiated guidelines and amendments to acts.

(2) As far as possible, this exchange shall take place electronically.

Excepted information

Article 12. Exchange of information pursuant to Article 11 shall only take place in so far as the information is not subjected to secrecy according to national rules.

Confidential information

Article 13. At exchange of information excepted from national rules on access to information, the parties shall at request treat this information in confidence.

Part 4

Common provisions

Revision

Article 14. This Agreement shall be revised annually or when otherwise considered necessary.

(2) Appendix 1 to the Agreement shall be revised on an ongoing basis in order to include new directives in the appendix.

Commencement and termination

Article 15. This Agreement shall commence when it has been signed by at least three parties.
(2)  The Agreement is any time terminable with immediate effect. If one or more of the parties withdraw because of termination, the Agreement shall continue for the other parties.
(3)  Termination of the Agreement shall not affect pending cases in accordance with this Agreement.

Copenhagen, June 14th

Hagen Jørgensen

_________________________

Olso

Björn Erik Thon

_________________________

Helsinki, June 8th

Erik Mickwitz

_________________________                          

Stockholm, June

Karin Lindell

__________________________

Appendix 1

The Injunctions Directive comprises the following directives:

  1. Council Directive 84/450/EEC of 10 September 1984 relating to the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning misleading advertising;
  2. Council Directive 85/577/EEC of 20 December 1985 to protect the consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises;
  3. Council Directive 87/102/EEC of 22 December 1986 for the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning consumer credit amended by Directive 98/7/EC;
  4. Council Directive 89/552/EEC of 3 October 1989 on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by Law, Regulation or Administrative Action in Member States concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities;
  5. Council Directive 90/314/EEC of 13 June 1990 on package travel, package holidays and package tours;
  6. Council Directive 92/28/EEC of 31 March 1992 on the advertising of medicinal products for human use;
  7. Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts;
  8. Directive 94/47/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 26 October 1994 on the protection of purchasers in respect of certain aspects of contracts relating to the purchase of the right to use immovable properties on a timeshare basis;
  9. Directive 97/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 1997 on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts;
  10. Directive 99/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 May 1999 on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees(2);
  11. Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (‘Directive on electronic commerce’)(3). This directive must be implemented by 16 January 2002

__________________________________
1  The Danish Act No. 1257 of 20 December 2000 (Lov om forbud til beskyttelse af forbrugernes interesser), the Swedish Act, 2000:1175 (Lag om talerätt för vissa utländska konsumentmyndigheter och konsumentorganisationer) and the Finnish Act, 1189/2000 (Lag om gränsöverskridande förbudsförfarande). The Injunctions Directive has still not been implemented in Norway. However, a bill to change the marketing act for this purpose has been introduced (Ot.prp. no. 91).
2 This directive must be implemented in the national legislation of each country by 1 January 2002.
3This directive must be implemented in the national legislation of each country by 16 January 2002. 

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