New year, new laws: Online traders have to comply with new information requirements relating to the European Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform for consumers.
On 9 January 2016, the EU Regulation No 524/2013 on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes (ODR Regulation) entered into force. The regulation mainly governs the establishment of a European ODR platform for consumers by the European Commission.
It also requires that certain information is disclosed by all online traders on their websites to make sure that consumers are aware of the new ODR possibilities. Penalties for non-compliance with the new requirements are to be determined by national law and these will vary between EU Member States. They may include fines and costly injunctions for compliance by competitors.
The ODR platform is a web-based platform that is specifically designed to help consumers who have bought goods or services online and subsequently encounter a problem with that online purchase. It allows consumers to submit their contractual dispute and to conduct an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedure online in any of the 23 official languages of the European Union. The ODR platform will only transmit disputes to the ADR bodies that are included in the national lists of ADR bodies that comply with binding quality requirements already established by the EU.
The ODR platform should have been operational by 9 January 2016, however, it is running late. The EU Commission now states that it will be available from 15 February 2016.
Mandatory Information Requirements
The mandatory information requirements apply to online traders and marketplaces established in the European Union that engage in online sales or service contracts with consumers. These entities have to provide an easily accessible electronic link on their websites to the ODR platform (http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr/), and also state their contact e-mail addresses. The latter is already a mandatory requirement in many EU Member States (e.g. Germany).
Additionally, where online traders are committed or obliged to use one or more ADR entities to resolve disputes with consumers, they shall inform consumers about the existence of the ODR platform and the possibility of using the ODR platform for resolving their disputes. As well as the electronic link to the ODR platform on their websites, online traders also have to insert such links in any offers made by e-mail. Where applicable, the information shall also be provided in the general terms and conditions related to online sales and service contracts.
These requirements apply as of 9 January 2016 and should, at the latest, be complied with until 15 February 2016 when the ODR platform becomes operational.