Last week saw the launch of the European Commission’s new online dispute resolution (ODR) platform to help consumers and traders resolve disputes about purchases made online. The ODR platform is available here.

Background

As part of the wider Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy, the aim of the ODR platform is to reduce the difficulties faced by consumers when complaining about goods purchased online by providing a simple and quick redress without having to resort to court proceedings.

For an overview of the Commission’s DSM strategy take a look at our earlier blogs here. The Hogan Lovells DSM Watch team is a multi-jurisdiction, cross-practice group working together to keep you informed as the initiatives under the DSM strategy roll out.

What is the ODR platform?

The ODR platform is a user-friendly online platform allowing EU consumers and traders to settle disputes about goods and services purchased online through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) bodies. It is available for disputes arising from both domestic and cross-border online purchases.

ADR is seen as a quick and inexpensive way to resolve disputes. If ADR is used, the entire dispute resolution process can be conducted online using the ODR platform (note that some traders may be obliged to use ADR).

How does the ODR platform work?

On 15 February 2015, the ODR platform opened for consumers and traders to submit complaints. A simple online form is completed by the complaining party. The parties must then agree on the ADR provider that will resolve their dispute through the ODR platform. Once an ADR provider is agreed, the ODR platform transmits the complaint to the ADR provider for resolution.

What information must traders provide to consumers?

All traders who sell goods or services online must provide on their website an easily accessible electronic link to the platform and their email address. Guidance suggests that a logical place for the link would be alongside information about the complaints procedure on a trader’s website.

If a trader is obliged to use ADR, (for example, as part of a trade association) they must in addition provide information relating to the use of ADR in resolving disputes. This information includes providing the name and website address of the relevant ADR entity or EU listed body on their website, and in their general terms and conditions.

What’s next?

It remains to be seen how consumers and traders will make use of the ODR platform. However, the Commission is hopeful that consumers will be more confident in trading online and across member states as it will be easier for them to resolve a dispute should something go wrong. Additionally, traders will benefit from a new simple way to resolve disputes which can help to maintain their reputation across the EU.