Author: Ben Milloy
The EU Commission’s drive to encourage EU cross-border trade through increased consumer confidence took a step forward today (9 February 2016) with the operational launch of its online dispute resolution platform (ODR platform). The portal (which is accessible at the following link: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr/) is specifically designed to help consumers who have bought goods or services online, but subsequently experienced a problem with their purchase.
The ODR platform is the result of the 2013 EU regulation on consumer online dispute resolution (ODR Regulation). This sought to address a perception that consumers are not making complaints to online traders because they believe the procedure will be too long-winded, or is unlikely to result in a satisfactory solution.
While the ODR Regulation does not go so far as to require traders to actually engage in ODR as a means of resolution, a notable introduction is the requirement that all traders must now provide an easily accessible link to the ODR platform on their websites (in addition to the online trader’s email address).
The ODR Regulation complements another recent EU legislative act in this area: the Directive on Consumer Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR Directive), which is designed to promote awareness of and participation in ADR as an alternative to court proceedings. As implemented into UK law last year, the ADR Directive contains similar requirements regarding information that traders must provide to consumers. As with ODR, actual participation in ADR is not required under those UK regulations (although it will be mandatory under separate rules for certain regulated sectors, such as financial services).
With the coming into force of the ODR platform today comes the obligation for traders to ensure that their websites are compliant; those who fail risk being subject to Trading Standards civil enforcement action (including the possibility of fines and negative publicity). Online traders are therefore well advised to conduct a quick check of their sites to ensure compliance.
Ben Milloy, Associate, Fladgate LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)