Having highlighted the issue of disputes between companies and consumers in the last column, there has been an important development which businesses should be aware of.
Just as recently as 15 February 2016, the European Commission launched its new European Online Dispute Resolution Platform (ODR Platform) to consumers and traders.
The ODR Platform allows consumers who have bought goods or services online (within the EU) to resolve any disputes with the trader about those via an online alternative dispute resolution platform.
The process will work by:
- The complainant submitting details of their complaint onto an online form.
- The ODR Platform will then transmit the dispute to the respondent party, together with certain information.
- The parties will then need to agree an ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) entity.
- Once the ADR entity is agreed, the ODR platform will transmit the complaint to the relevant ADR entity.
- The ADR entity, if it agrees to take on the dispute, will try to resolve the dispute within 90 days and unless otherwise agreed, this will not need to be done in the physical presence of each other.
Traders that are established within the EU and are engaged in online sales or services contracts (and online marketplaces) are obliged to provide an easily accessible electronic link to the ODR Platform on their website. They are also obliged to state their email address.
If you are a trader that it committed or obliged to use one or more ADR entities to resolve disputes with consumers (under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015), then as well as the provision of this information on your website, you are also required to provide a link in your general terms and conditions applicable to online sales and service contracts.
Online traders should therefore ensure that your website and terms and conditions are updated to reflect these requirements.
It is important to find out if you are in a mandatory sector specific area, and if so - who your sector specific certified ADR provider is. A list of certified ADR providers, and the sectors they cover, can be found at www.tradingstandards.uk/ADRbodies.
In addition, consider whether you wish to use a certified ADR provider. Finally, ensure that you are giving consumers the necessary details of the ADR provider, whether or not one is being used.