Both the consumer and the service provider can benefit from settling legal disputes by conciliation board – this is clear from last year’s statistics of the Budapest Conciliation Board (BBT), operated by the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BKIK). In 2023, the BBT received 4,654 cases, of which a decision was made in 4,531 cases – this means an increase in the number of cases by nearly 10 percent compared to 2022. At the national level, the BBT handled half of the consumer complaints that came to conciliation bodies and made decisions with a case value of more than one billion forints.
Compared to the previous year, in 2023 the number of cases ending with a settlement increased significantly (by about 400 cases). There was also a strong tendency for businesses to improve their willingness to cooperate, as part of which in many cases, following the initiation of the conciliation board procedure, the business fulfilled the legitimate consumer demand almost immediately. It is a recognition of the professional authority of the Budapest Conciliation Board that the companies participating in the proceedings pay considerable attention to the completeness of the documents they submit.
“The Board’s substantive procedures were successful, as in previous years, and businesses are increasingly realizing that it is more expedient and economical to conclude the legal dispute against the consumer outside of court, within the framework of the conciliation procedure. The goal is still to settle these cases free of charge, quickly and efficiently, with the agreement of the parties. A significant change from this year is that the conciliation bodies can now make binding decisions on businesses if the request is well-founded and the consumer’s claim does not exceed HUF 200,000. This could lead to further strengthening of consumer protection,” he commented dr. Eva teasedpresident of the Budapest Conciliation Board.
Most complaints (57 percent of complaints) are still related to services. In 2023, many people complained about the
- with postal and telecommunication services and
- in relation to utility service providers,
most of the latter were related to the interpretation and correction of invoicing. Continuing the trends of previous years
- the number of compensation claims against airlines increased,
especially due to flight cancellations and delays.
Complaints related to solar panel systems are a novelty among the cases brought before the BBT: for example, complaints related to the conclusion of the contract, delays in construction, inadequate construction, the lack of inverters, or the billing of harvested electricity. In cases involving the construction industry, for example window replacement or air conditioning installation, consumers often find themselves in a difficult situation because, in the absence of a written agreement, they cannot prove the contents of their application.
Among the product-related complaints (43 percent of all cases), warranty claims related to products purchased online of inadequate quality, used cars, and consumer claims due to hidden defects were also common. Cases where the company operating the online store is unknown and the consumer did not act with due care when ordering from the given online interface can still be considered typical.
As we wrote about it, from January 1, 2024, the conciliation bodies can make binding decisions under a value limit of 200,000 forints, with the same force as court judgments – if the consumer’s request is well-founded – even if the given businesses have not submitted a declaration of submission. There is no appeal against the conciliation board’s decision, but the court can be asked to set it aside.