If you’re an online trader you need to know that the new European Union Online Dispute Resolution platform (the ODR Platform) became available on Monday 15 February 2016. Why? Well, all businesses trading online have to include the following link on their web sites:
The ODR Platform allows consumers and traders to settle online disputes for domestic and cross-border purchases of goods and services without the need for lengthy and costly court proceedings.
How does the ODR Platform work?
The ODR Platform is an Alternative Dispute Resolution procedure conducted entirely online. ADR resolves a complaint without going to court. A neutral third party acts as a referee or mediator between the trader and the consumer who will then suggest or impose a solution, or work to bring the parties together to find a solution to the dispute.
The four steps
- The consumer completes an online complaint form
- The complaint is sent to the relevant trader, who proposes an ADR entity to the consumer
- Once the consumer and trader agree on an ADR entity to handle their dispute, the ODR Platform transfers the complaint to that ADR entity
- The ADR entity handles the case and reaches an outcome in 90 days
Benefits of the ODR Platform
The ODR Platform provides confidence to both the online trader and consumer, particularly if the dispute is cross border, knowing that any potential dispute can be settled in a prompt and low-cost way. The ODR Platform will encourage online traders to broaden their trading patterns, and consumers to purchase from other EU member states.
What you need to do
From 15 February 2016, a business trading online will be required to supply certain information to consumers to ensure compliance with the ODR Platform. These requirements are also dependant on whether the online trader is a regulated business and therefore obliged to use an ADR entity.
Every online trader will be obliged under the new legislation to provide an electronic link to the ODR Platform on their websites regardless of whether the business currently markets its goods or services to consumers in other member states of the European Union.
In addition, those online traders who are committed to or obliged to use other ADR entities must also inform consumers through their website or by an email of the ODR platform as another platform to resolve their disputes. These regulated online traders must also include a link to the ODR platform in any offer made to consumers by email as well including the information in the general terms and conditions of online sales or services contracts.
This is on top of the requirement to provide details of a certified ADR entity to consumers in the event of a dispute that cannot be resolved, which was introduced on 1 October 2015.
Non-Compliance with the Regulation
The Government will provide rules on penalties applicable to infringements of the European Regulation on Online Dispute Resolution (ERODR) and will take all necessary measures to ensure that they are implemented.
Currently, non-compliance with the ADR Regulation can result in being liable to Trading Standards’ civil enforcement action which may result in a court order to comply with the Regulations. Any failure to comply with such a court order can result in an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.