The aim of the ECC Network is that of assisting consumers with cross-border complaints and of promoting the protection of consumer rights. The ultimate aim is that of empowering consumers with valuable information in order to make the most of the advantages of the single market.
Notwithstanding, disputes between consumers and traders are a reality, for this reason it is important that both parties, that is consumers and traders know about the possible means of redress available to them to resolve such disputes. When consumers seek and find redress, trust in commercial entities increases. This is why it is important for businesses to facilitate redress for consumers in order to increase consumer’s trust in those commercial entities which are willing to implement consumer friendly measures.
Through this section we will be giving some information about developments in the field of consumer redress and what businesses are expected to do to facilitate communication between the parties.
Alternative and Online Business Resolution
The term ADR includes all the means of redress of resolving a complaint/dispute without going to court. Typically ADR mechanisms are usually quicker, with simplified procedures and cost less. Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is an ADR procedure which is conducted entirely online.
Directive 2013/11/EU on Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (ADR Directive) provides the legal basis for ADR as a whole. It ensures that consumers have access to ADR for resolving their contractual disputes with traders in almost all economic sectors irrespective of where the contract was concluded. Services regarding health and higher education are excluded.
To be recognised as an ADR body, the organisation must comply with several criteria as laid down in the ADR Directive, namely:
Regulation 524/2013 on Online Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (ODR Regulation) provides for the Online Dispute Resolution Platform. Pursuant to Article 5 of this Regulation the European Commission developed the EU wide ODR Platform. It serves as a single point of entry for consumers and traders seeking the out-of-court resolution of disputes covered by the Regulation. The Platform links the National ADR entities notified by the Member States. The ODR Regulation applies to out-of-court resolution of disputes concerning contractual obligations stemming from online sales or services contracts between consumers and traders resident and established within the EU through the intervention of an ADR entity.
Trader’s Obligations – Consumer Information
In line with Article 14 of the Regulation, traders established within the Union engaging in online sales or service contracts shall provide on their websites an electronic link to the ODR Platform.
Online traders must also state their email address on their website so that consumers will be able to send the complaint through the platform. In case a trader is obliged to use an ADR to settle disputes (eg. required by contract or by law) they must give additional information to consumers. Such traders in addition to providing the link to the ODR platform must also inform consumers of the existence of such platform and about the possibility of using the platform for resolving disputes.
Other Redress Mechanism
The European Small Claims Procedure is a procedure available to both business and consumer disputes, for claims that do not exceed €2000. As from the 14th July 2017, the amendments to this Regulation will come into force and this threshold of €2000 will increase to €5000. Further information about this procedure is found here.