On March 15th, that means today, we celebrate the World Consumer Rights Day. By coincidence, the European platform for online dispute resolution (or ODR) went live just a month ago.
But, what is this platform about online dispute resolution developed by the European Commission?
The ODR is a one-stop counter for those cases where a user from the European Union (EU) bought online from a service based in the EU, and something went wrong. If the user wants to submit a complaint against the trader (in some countries it can happen the other way around too), and he or she wants to reach an out-of-court settlement, the platform is the meeting point for all the parties involved: the one submitting the complaint, the one receiving it and the dispute resolution body that will deal with it.
This way, the consumer who lives in the EU, that bought something online and who wants to complain for a problem related to that deal, can reach out to this European platform for online dispute resolution so:
- He or she can submit a complaint.
- He or she can choose a dispute resolution body to deal with the complaint (although both parties have to agree on and taking into account the country where the consumer lives).
- The dispute resolution body handles the complaint.
- The complaint has an outcome.
All of that without abandoning the platform, in the 23 languages from the EU and being always up to date on the complaint or even future ones.
You can find here all the different stages in the procedure.
Does the platform have any problem? Mainly that it is completely voluntary. The trader who receives the complaint is not obliged to agree to the online dispute resolution system. So, if 10 days after submitting the complaint, you have not received a reply, you will have to try other means of redress such as a consumer organization or even a court procedure.
In the particular case of Spain (as well as some other countries like Germany, Croatia or Poland) there is another important problem, they still have to choose the dispute resolution bodies that comply with the requirements from the European Commission. Therefore, the platform does not offer anyone to solve the complaint. That means that the consumers from these countries cannot use the European platform for online dispute resolutions until this issue is fixed.
The thing is that they had more than enough time to do that, almost three years in fact…
Anyway, the initiative is good and it can become useful. If you want more information about the ODR and its procedure, the FAQ section is worth the time.
Having said that, according to article 14 of the Regulation 524/2013, the traders established within the Union that engage in online sales or service contracts, shall provide:
- Information about the existence of the ODR platform (for example a link in the email if the offer is made by email).
- A link to it in the website of the trader.
- Their email addresses (the ones from the traders).
- Information about all of that in the general terms and conditions applicable.
Well then, taking into account that the Tracker of Terms and Conditions monitors how and when the services change its terms and conditions, here we have 13 services that are already mentioning the ODR or the European platform for Online Dispute Resolution according to the regulation:
- Air Europa
- PC Componentes
- Top Rural
- William Hill
All of them inform about it (with more or less detail), some of them are already saying that they will reply to a complaint from a consumer and a few of them are are already saying that they won’t (that would be 1&1, in Spanish, or Jimdo). As we said, the ODR is voluntary.
Nevertheless, there is an obligation to inform about it. And although those 13 services are not the only ones informing about the platform, right now there is not an abundance of services mentioning the online dispute resolution European platform in its T&Cs.
In any case, let’s not forget that it is still very soon. So, time will tell.
Happy Consumer Day!