On 9 January 2016, Regulation (EC) No 524/2013 entered into effect. This regulation supplements Directive 2013/11 on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes and reflects the European legislature's will to better structure the available means of alternative dispute resolution and ensure that European consumers have straightforward access to these means. It will apply to the out-of-court resolution of contractual disputes between consumers residing in and traders established in the EU.
New ODR platform
The regulation puts in place an EU-wide online dispute resolution (ODR) platform. The platform, which will be operational as from15 February 2016, will take the form of an interactive website offering a single point of entry to consumers and traders seeking to resolve out-of-court disputes which have arisen from online transactions. Both consumers and traders alike will thus be able to file complaints by completing an electronic form, available in all EU languages.
Steps to take if you offer online sales or service contracts
- If you have agreed, for example by adhering to a professional code of conduct, or are obliged by an administrative authority to have recourse to alternative dispute resolution you must:
- inform consumers of the existence of the new ODR platform and their possibility to use it to resolve disputes; and
- provide a link to the platform on your website as well as, if the contract is offered by email, in the email itself.
In addition, if you have general terms and conditions applicable to online sales or service contracts, the abovementioned information and link should be included therein.
- If you have not agreed or are not obliged to use alternative dispute resolution, you must still post on your website an easily accessible link to the platform, along with your email address. Although not required, we advise you to include the link in your general terms and conditions as well.
- Finally, if your FAQ contain a section on complaints, please ensure that it complies with the abovementioned information requirement.
Deadline for compliance
Although the regulation has been in effect since 9 January 2016, you have until 15 February 2016 (i.e. the date on which the platform becomes operational) to comply with the new obligations.