Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is a platform developed by the European Commission to make the online shopping experience safer and fairer for consumers. This platform provides access to various tools that allow the consumer to obtain a solution in a dispute with a trader. As a consumer, you can use this platform if the trader is based in the European Union (EU), Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. You can access this platform by visiting the website: https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr
From the comfort of your own home, you can easily make use of this platform as the process is all online and accessible in all official EU languages , including the language of Iceland and Norway. Through ODR, you can contact the trader directly about your problem to find a solution.
Regulation 524/2013 on Online Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (ODR Regulation) provides the set-up of the EU Online Dispute Resolution Platform. Through Article 5 of this Regulation, the European Commission developed the 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 the out-of-court resolution of disputes concerning contractual obligations stemming from online sales or services contracts between consumers and traders, residents and established within the EU through the intervention of an ADR entity.
The process to enjoy the ODR service begins by filling out an online form where you enter your details: the trader with whom you have the dispute; a description of the item or service you have purchased; along with a description of the complaint; furthermore, you can also attach some documents related to your case as evidence. After completing the online form, you will be able to submit your complaint directly to the trader. The ODR platform informs the trader of your request via email, so it’s essential to verify that the trader’s email is correct to receive the notification email. If the trader is willing to talk to you to find a friendly solution, you will be able to send messages directly to each other and even schedule online meetings through the platform’s dashboard.
Both you and the trader can withdraw from direct talks at any time. You have a maximum of 90 days to reach an amicable settlement. Suppose an agreement is not reached within this period. In that case, the trader has the facility through the ODR platform to propose that the complaint is referred to an EU-approved body such as an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body. In this case, the trader must present a list of ADRs that are competent according to your specific complaint. The platform provides a 30-day chance to agree on which entity will be handling your complaint. If you disagree, your case will be closed on the platform.
On the other hand, if the trader immediately rejects your request for direct contact with him or either party withdraws from this process, the ODR platform provides various tools for dispute resolution that may apply to you.
Through the ODR platform, one has access to a complete list of over four hundred entities providing an alternative dispute resolution service. In Malta, we have seven ADRs; some specialize in one sector, such as gaming complaints, while other entities accept complaints from different sectors. The main features of these entities are that they all offer alternative court settlement procedures and are generally more straightforward, cheaper and less time consuming than having to open a court proceeding. Another common feature of these bodies is that they have all been approved following quality requirements concerning impartiality, transparency, efficiency, and accessibility.
Each entity has its regulations and procedures as well as different payment fees. You can obtain information related to the procedure of these entities together with the applicable fees through the ODR platform. The process may vary from one ADR to another depending on the type of resolution the particular ADR offers. There are several alternative types of resolution, the most common of which are mediation, conciliation, or arbitration. While in mediation and conciliation, the entity may provide the parties with a solution or recommendation to reach an amicable settlement, a ruling is awarded in arbitration, which may be mandatory. The ADR will base its decision on the points raised by the parties and the evidence submitted. Thus, you will not need to attend the hearings in most cases as the whole process is done online.
Most dispute resolution entities are on a voluntary basis, which means that both the consumer and the trader must agree to use these entities to resolve their issue. In addition, these entities may reject any cases that do not fall within their competence. Once the claim is denied, the consumer is informed and provided with an explanation concerning the complaint’s dismissal.