Since the beginning of 2016 EU entrepreneurs must provide an easily accessible link to the new European online dispute resolution platform (ODR platform) on their website and provide their e-mail address when they enter into online sales or online service contracts with consumers. Violations of this new duty to inform can be sanctioned under the German Act Against Unfair Competition. The requirements for such a duty are met rather quickly in practice.
An ‘online sales or service contract’ means a sales or service contract where the entrepreneur, or the entrepreneur’s intermediary, has offered goods or services on a website or by other electronic means and the consumer has ordered such goods or services on that website or by other electronic means.
The requirement ‘electronic means’ encompasses electronic equipment for the processing and storage of data. Not only an offer to consumers over the Internet, but also the conclusion of a contract via email fulfills this requirement. Thus, as one might initially assume, not only the classic „online retailers“ are affected, but more and more companies that make use of electronic communication can be encompassed by the new legislation.
The ODR platform has gone online 15/02/2016. It is administered by the European Commission and offers the possibility (similar to a mediation) to settle disputes when making purchases/ providing services online, but with the particularity that the process is carried out online.
EU entrepreneurs now have to inform on their websites about the new platform providing the link which is http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr/. For some sectors and some countries, there are no dispute resolution bodies, which does, however, not exempt from the duty to inform on the homepage.
This Regulation does not apply to disputes between consumers and entrepreneurs that arise from sales or service contracts concluded offline and to disputes between entrepreneurs (B2B).