The European Commission opened its new online dispute resolution (ODR) platform to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) bodies on 9 January. However, the online platform will be opened for use by consumers and traders on 15 February 2016. Online merchants must be aware that they have to meet certain information requirements concerning the ODR platform.
Obligations for online merchants
Under the ODR Regulation, traders must already provide a link to the ODR platform on their website (even though not accessible yet). The official link to the ODR is: http://ec.europa.eu/odr/. It is important to note that traders must also meet the information requirements established by the Article 13 of the ADR Directive 2013/11/EU as transposed into the national legislation of their respective Member State. In practice, Member States shall ensure that traders established on their territories inform consumers about the ADR entity or ADR entities by which those traders are covered, when those traders commit to or are obliged to use those entities to resolve disputes with consumers. That information shall include the website address of the relevant ADR entity or ADR entities. The information shall be provided in a clear, comprehensible and easily accessible way on the traders’ website, where one exists, and, if applicable, in the general terms and conditions of sales or service contracts between the trader and a consumer.
The information about the link was also sent to national authorities in charge of ADR/ODR the Member States at the beginning of January. Ecommerce Europe recommends its members to get in contact with their national authorities in order to have further information on the ADR authorities as well as the ODR platform.
More information on the ODR platform
The platform will allow consumers and traders to settle their online disputes at the click of a mouse, both for national and cross-border purchases, without the need to go through court proceedings. When consumers and traders lodge a complaint, the dispute resolution bodies will act as a referee between the two parties to resolve the issue. The platform is user-friendly, multilingual and accessible to all. Everything is done in four steps:
- The consumer fills in an online complaint form and submits it;
- The complaint is sent to the relevant trader, who proposes an ADR entity to the consumer;
- Once consumer and trader agree on an ADR entity to handle their dispute, the ODR platform transfers automatically the complaint to that entity;
- The ADR entity handles the case entirely online and reaches an outcome in 90 days.
Ecommerce Europe’s perspective on the ODR
Ecommerce Europe has always supported the creation of an ODR platform and is convinced that if the platform is comprehensive, easy accessible, transparent, fast, easy to handle and low cost, it will definitely have a positive effect on e-commerce, not only for online merchants but also for consumers.
The European Commission will come back to Ecommerce Europe in the next weeks to cooperate with the association on informing online merchants in view of the opening of the platform to traders and consumers on 15 February 2016.
More information about ADR and ODR is available here and in the documents listed below: