After a number of delays, the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform will be live for consumers and traders from Monday 15 February 2016. The platform will allow consumers, traders and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers to deal with disputes online, in any of the official languages of the EU, and should provide an straightforward, quick mechanism for dealing with low value cross border disputes involving consumers. Please refer to our briefing for more detail. For the trader, ADR/ODR will often be the best way to deal with a dispute but it is not compulsory and it remains to be seen how effective it is in practice.
All businesses that sell goods or services online must provide a link to the ODR platform somewhere on their website that is easily accessible and also in their general terms and conditions. They also need to provide an email address that consumers can use as a first point of contact. Online marketplaces which facilitate sales between traders and consumers must also provide a link to the ODR platform. At the end of January, the Government published guidance for businesses on the ADR Regulations including a section on ODR with helpful flowcharts and FAQs.
If a trader fails to provide information on the ODR platform, Trading Standards have the right to apply for a court order to require them to comply. If a business does not comply with a court order, unlimited fines could follow. Now is the time for online traders to make sure they have updated their websites and terms and conditions.