The European Council has in late April 2013 adopted two key legislative measures regarding dispute resolution. This includes a Directive on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and a Regulation on online dispute resolution (ODR). The aim is to offer consumers fast and cost- effective means to resolve disputes with businesses.

This is therefore something that businesses will need to become increasingly aware of in advance of such measures coming into effect in Ireland.

Directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

The ADR Directive imposes a requirement on EU member states to offer effective access to ADR services for resolving contractual disputes between consumers and businesses concerning the sale of products and services, including online sales.

The main proposals are:

  • ADR entities will have to meet certain quality criteria, i.e. be well-qualified, impartial, transparent, effective, and fair
  • Businesses must inform consumers about the ADR entity which can deal with a contractual dispute between them
  • ADR entities will resolve the disputes within 90 days

Regulation on Online Dispute Resolution

It is intended that the ADR Directive will be supported by an Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) mechanism. The ODR Regulation will enable the Commission to create an EU-wide online platform connecting all national ADR entities (“ODR platform”).

It is envisaged that consumers will be able to submit complaints about contracts with businesses and the ODR platform will automatically send the consumer's complaint to the competent ADR entity and facilitate resolution of the dispute under 30 days.

Overview

It is intended that these measures will afford access to an effective and inexpensive way of dispute resolution regardless of the goods or services or the means of purchase.The ADR Directive will require domestic implementation in Ireland and will apply in due course, and businesses will have to plan for this. It is intended that the ODR platform will be available towards the end of 2015.