From today, the 15th February 2016, Online Traders will be required by law to provide information of the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform on their websites for consumers to see and access.
What is the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)?
The technical definition provided by the European Commission (EC) is:
If consumers have a complaint about a good or service they have bought, instead of going to court, they can choose Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The term ADR includes all the ways of resolving a complaint which do not involve going to court. Typically consumers ask a neutral third party to act as an intermediary between them and the trader; this neutral third party is called an ADR entity. The ADR entity can then suggest or impose a solution, or simply bring the two together to discuss how to find a solution. This is also known as â€œmediationâ€, â€œconciliationâ€, â€œarbitrationâ€, â€œombudsmanâ€ or â€œcomplaintsâ€™ boardâ€. Compared with going to court, ADR is usually quicker, simpler and costs less. Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is an ADR procedure conducted entirely online.
Who does this change affect?
The Online Dispute Resolution affects:
- Online Traders
â€˜Online tradersâ€™ includes any eCommerce transactional website, solicitors and financial services that operate in trading and contract exchanges online. This list is not exhaustive.
- Online Consumers
â€˜Online consumersâ€™ include anyone that is involved in purchasing a product, service or exchanging online contracts. This can also include any offers made by email.
The definition of â€˜online sales or service contractâ€™ should cover a sales or service contract where the trader, or the traderâ€™s intermediary, has offered goods or services through a website or by other electronic means and the consumer has ordered those goods or services on that website or by other electronic means. This should also cover cases where the consumer has accessed the website or other information society service through a mobile electronic device such as a mobile telephone.â€™Â
What does this change mean for you?
As a business, the Online Dispute Resolution requires you to have a procedure in place to deal with an online complaint from a consumer. Your website will need to include a link to the ODR platform, a point of contact who can handle the complaint and an email address to contact the organisation directly.
In an ideal scenario, your business will have a Complaints Handling Procedure that covers all aspects of making a complaint against your organisation and/ or service.
As a consumer, if you have a problem with a transaction or service, the ODR allows you to file a complaint against the respected organisation in order to reach an out of court settlement.
What should you do now?
As a business, you are required to do the following:
- You must inform consumers of the existence of the ODR platform
- Every online trader must display a link to the ODR on its website (in a logical place)
- You must also include a link to the ODR in any offer made to the consumer by email
- You must clearly display the complaints handlerâ€™s details on the website including name and email address.
- You must add the ODR platform information to your standard terms and conditions
Are there any penalties for non-compliance?
In simple terms, YES.
Failure to comply can result in Trading Standards applying for a court order; requiring an organisation or service to comply. If this order is not obeyed, a maximum penalty is an unlimited fine and two years in prison.
For further information on the Online Dispute Resolution and how it affects businesses and services, please visit:
Creare envisages to help, aid and implement the Online Dispute Resolution to all relevant websites and contract handling exchanges. However, it is the responsibility of each individual organisation or service to apply the Online Dispute Resolution procedure to their website and electronic communications.
You can make these alterations yourself but if you would like Creare to do this piece of work for you for a small charge of Â£150 plus VAT, please feel free to get in touch.