Extrajudicial dispute resolution

If you decide to settle a dispute out of court, an impartial third party will enter into the dispute handling process. The third party will help you and the service provider (the target of your complaint) to settle the dispute by concluding a written agreement or it will decide directly in consumer arbitration (i.e. out of court).

The following entities are involved in the out-court settlement of consumer disputes:

a) alternative dispute resolution entities;

b) permanent arbitration courts;

c) mediators.

Each of them has its specific features but, in general, the out-of-court dispute settlement system is based on the following principles:

-  financial availability to consumers - the consumer pays only a minimal amount for the settlement of a dispute;

-  the speed of dispute resolution - the proceedings are fast and relatively informal; 

-  the third party's impartiality and qualification - disputes may be resolved exclusively by impartial persons having the required knowledge and skills in the area of consumer dispute resolution.

Financial institutions are obliged to inform consumers about the possibilities for settling disputes arising from financial service agreements out of court. Information on such possibilities is usually included in financial service agreement and is available on the institution's website. If you decide to have a dispute settled by arbitration or through a mediator, you will no longer have the option to use alternative dispute resolution in the given matter.

a) Alternative dispute resolution entities

If the provider of the financial service you are complying about fails to respond to your complaint within 30 days of the date its filing or rejects it, you may initiate alternative dispute resolution proceedings by filing a motion with one of the entities included in the list kept by the Ministry of the Economy of the Slovak Republic. When selecting an alternative dispute resolution entity from that list, verify whether that entity is eligible to deal with disputes concerning the financial service you are complaining about.

What you should know about alternative dispute resolution proceedings:

- a motion to initiate such proceedings can be lodged by mail, in person or in electronic form;

- the fee for the commencement of proceedings is specified in the list (it may not exceed €5);

- the settlement of a dispute takes place without the parties present, through written communication;

- a dispute is to be settled within 90 days of the delivery of a complete motion;

- a written agreement on dispute resolution is concluded between you and the financial institution concerned;

- unless the parties reach an agreement, the alternative dispute resolution entity will prepare a justified opinion, provided that the breach of a consumer right is apparent;

- if any attempt to settle the dispute by mutual agreement fails, there is no appeal against the result of such proceedings.

b) Consumer arbitration

You can use arbitration to settle a dispute if you have an arbitration agreement with your service provider. That agreement specifies which permanent arbitration court is eligible to act in the matter, its contact data, and the financial service agreement that may be the subject of a dispute to be settled by that court. The conclusion of an arbitration agreement will not curtail your right to turn directly to a general court, up to the moment the arbitration procedure begins. The permanent arbitration courts duly authorised by the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic is available in the list of arbitration courts compiled by this ministry.

What you should know about consumer arbitration:

- an arbitration procedure starts with the filing of a lawsuit in writing to the competent arbitration court;

- the procedure takes place at the arbitration court and is recorded in writing, but you can request verbal arbitration too;

- arbitration guarantees you similar rights as standard court proceedings do, i.e. to present evidence for your defence, to comment any statement or evidence presented by the other party;

- the cost of arbitration you are to pay must not be disproportionately high; the consumer's actions such as the filing of a lawsuit, the sending of a lawsuit answer, statement, objection or proposal for the presentation of evidence are free of charge;

- an arbitration procedure ends with the issuance of an arbitrary decision; if no decision is reached within 90 days of the date when the lawsuit was filed, you must be informed of the reasons and of the date when a decision is expected in the case;

- you may lodge an appeal to a civil court against an arbitrary decision within three months of the date of its issuance in cases specified by law;

- you may also lodge a complaint about an arbitrary decision to the chairman of the permanent arbitration court or to the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic.

c) Mediation

Mediation is a method to settle a consumer dispute with the help of an impartial third person - mediator. Using a mediator, you and the service provider will work together to find a mutually acceptable solution through a non-public informal procedure. A precondition for mediation is that both parties are interested in reaching an agreement. A mediator may be a natural person included in the list of mediators compiled by the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic.

What you should know about mediation:

- mediation in a consumer dispute starts with the signing of a mediation agreement with the other party;

- mediation takes place in the mediator's office;

- mediation  ends with the conclusion of an agreement as a result of mediation, but no later than 90 days from the commencement of mediation;

- the agreement resulting from mediation is legally enforceable only if it has the form of a notarial record or court settlement;

- you as a consumer are to bear the costs up to 10% of the mediator's remuneration, not exceeding €20, the remaining part of the remuneration is to be covered by the other party;

- in the case of unsuccessful mediation, you can take the case to arbitration or to court.