Traders who fail to comply with the Regulations could be subject to Trading Standards civil enforcement action. Aside from the negative publicity this could attract, such action could result in a court order requiring compliance. Breach of such an order could be punishable with an unlimited fine or up to 2 years imprisonment.

Certain parts of the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015 (as amended by the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Amendment) Regulations 2015) (“the Regulations”) will shortly take effect. The changes govern what information online traders must give to customers in connection with customer complaints and disputes.

Since 9 July 2015, traders selling to consumers (except ‘health professionals’) have been required by the Regulations to provide their customers with details of a certified provider of Alternative Dispute Resolution services (“ADR”) and to notify their customers of whether or not they intend to use that particular ADR provider. (The Regulations themselves place no obligation on the trader to use ADR, but where the trader operates in a regulated sector such as financial services there may be other regulations requiring the trader to use ADR.) Many traders are yet to update their customer contract terms to comply with this requirement.

From 15 February 2016, further changes are required, specifically to the web sites, email offers and customer terms of online traders. The Regulations require that all online traders and online marketplaces (regardless of whether they sell to consumers) must include a link to the European Commission’s Online Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) platform (http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr/) on the trader’s website, in its standard terms of business and in any email offers, together with a contact email address to which customer complaints and disputes should be sent.

Traders who fail to comply with the Regulations could be subject to Trading Standards civil enforcement action.  Aside from the negative publicity this could attract, such action could result in a court order requiring compliance. Breach of such an order could be punishable with an unlimited fine or up to 2 years imprisonment.