The Consumer Mediation Service is an independent public service which:
- informs consumers and companies about their rights and obligations, particularly about the options available for the extra-judicial settlement of consumer disputes;
- receives all requests for the extra-judicial settlement of consumer disputes and, if applicable, either transfers them to another qualified entity competent in the matter, or handles them itself;
- intervenes in all requests for extra-judicial settlements of disputes when no other qualified entity is competent.
The missions of the Consumer Mediation Service are defined based on Book XVI of the Code of Economic Law.
The unit in charge of handling the incoming complaints is composed of file handlers and administrative workers. They have been hired as permanent contractors. The responsibility of this unit is in the hands of the Operational Manager (Pieter-Jan De Koning) and the Management Committee.
Management Committee is composed of the following members:
- the two members of the "telecommunications mediation department" (Luc Tuerlinckx and David Wiame)
- the two members of the "postal sector mediation department" (Katelijne Exelmans and Paul De Maeyer);
- the "energy mediation department" mediator (Eric Houtman);
- the two members of the "rail passenger mediation department" (Cynthia Van der Linden and Jean-Marc Jeanfils)
- The "financial services mediation department" mediator (Jean Cattaruzza);
- the "insurance mediation department" mediator (Laurent de Barsy).
The Management Committe also includes a representative from the Minister for Economy and a representative from the Minister for Budget.
The current Chair of the Committee is Cynthia Van der Linden; the Vice-Chair is David Wiame.
The Consumer Mediation Service is just one of many services active in out-of-court dispute resolution. To find an mediation service, you can visit the Ombudsman.be website (in Dutch, French or German).
Services for Consumer Mediation
A qualified entity is any entity (private or established by a public authority) that engages in out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes and appears on the list compiled by the Federal Public Service for Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy. (The Consumer Mediation Service is itself a qualified entity.) Depending on the sector (and other conditions), only one entity can be competent for a consumer dispute.
The Consumer Mediation Service forwards an application if another qualified entity has jurisdiction over the dispute. If no qualified entity is competent for a consumer dispute, the Consumer Mediation Service will mediate in the dispute.
Qualified entities handle consumer disputes. However, the Consumer Mediation Service also receives applications that are not consumer disputes or that deal with a foreign company. If possible, those applications are also referred to a competent entity.
The Consumer Mediation Service is free. The procedure rules describe the steps involved. A procedure with the Consumer Mediation Service lasts 55 days on average (2020).
It is always worth submitting your request to the company in question before filing a complaint. Some companies have a point of contact or a complaints department.
Submitting your complaint
You can submit your complaint by post, email or fax, or via the online form. You can also file a complaint in person. If there is a mediation service or other independent entity to handle your complaint, it will be transferred to the competent service. If there is no other competent entity, the Consumer Mediation Service will handle your complaint itself.
A first review of your complaint will be done to ensure that it meets the conditions of admissibility. Your request must be complete. It cannot have been previously submitted to the courts. We will provide an explanation if your complaint is rejected.
If you meet the conditions of admissibility, your file will be assigned to a case manager who will be responsible for investigating and finding a solution. The time required will depend on the complexity of the file. It will generally take 90 days maximum, renewable once.
The Consumer Mediation Service will propose a solution to the parties at the end of the procedure. The proposal is not binding and both parties are free to accept or reject it.
If an amicable settlement cannot be reached, the Consumer Mediation Service will make an individual recommendation to the company, if it feels that this is appropriate.