Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Barclays plc


  1.  Barclays has led the way amongst UK financial institutions in working to develop alternative consumer redress procedures. We believe establishing a cross-border redress system will go a long way to increase consumer confidence in e-commerce.

  2.  There is a dispute concerning the cross-border provision of retail financial services between those who stress single market principles and those who stress consumer protection as the overriding priority. The issue is how can a single market for financial services operate in a framework where consumers have the confidence to buy from service providers based in another country?

  3.  Developing suggestions first made by Malcolm Levitt, Barclays' EU Adviser, in 1998 as part of the Financial Services Strategy Review Group, we have produced a paper setting out our proposals (attached). These were presented at the Commission hearings into the Brussels convention in November 1999 and have been circulated widely to interested parties including MEPs and members of the European Commission.

  4.  Our suggestion envisages a network of nationally based ombudsmen across the EU. Each would deal with complaints against companies based in their country and would act as a co-ordinating point for consumers from their country with complaints about companies based overseas. This could provide consumers with the necessary confidence to use e-commerce to transact across borders without the costs, complexity and ineffectiveness of going to court to settle disputes.

  5.  We are convinced that this type of structure needs to be put in place to generate consumer confidence in cross-border trade that the use of e-commerce will undoubtedly promote. We therefore welcome any developments with this in mind.

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