Alternative and Online Dispute Resolution (ADR/ODR)
When consumers have a problem with a trader regarding a product or service they bought, they can settle their dispute out-of-court through an Alternative Dispute Resolution procedure.
Such procedures are an alternative to resolving disputes before a court and are hence called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). When they are carried out online, they are called Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).
Resolving disputes through ADR, in general, is easier, faster and less expensive than resolving disputes before a court. In the European Union, ADR procedures can take different forms and have different names e.g. mediation, conciliation, ombudsmen, arbitration, complaints boards.
The ADR Directive ensures that consumers have access to ADR for resolving their contractual disputes with traders. Access to ADR is ensured no matter what product or service they purchased (only disputes regarding health and higher education are excluded), whether the product or service was purchased online or offline and whether the trader is established in the consumer’s Member State or in another one.
This Directive also established binding quality requirements for dispute resolution bodies offering ADR procedure to consumers. Member States' competent authorities, after their assessment, communicate to the European Commission the list of national dispute resolution bodies.
The Online Dispute Resolution platform (ODR platform)
The ODR platform is a web-based platform developed by the European Commission. Its objective is to help consumers and traders resolve their contractual disputes about online purchases of goods and services out-of-court at a low cost in a simple and fast way.
It allows consumers to submit their disputes online in any of the 23 official languages of the European Union. The ODR platform transmits the disputes only to the quality dispute resolution bodies communicated by Member States.
Member States have to establish a national contact point to provide assistance to users of the ODR platform. The list of these national contact points is available on the ODR platform.
The ODR platform is accessible to consumers and traders since 15 February 2016.
Obligations for online traders to provide a link to the ODR platform
Businesses established in the EU that sell goods or services to consumers online need to comply with the ADR/ODR legislation:
Online traders that commit or are obliged to use ADR must inform consumers of the dispute resolution body/bodies by which they are covered. They should do this on their websites and in the general terms and conditions of sales or service contracts.
They are required to provide a link (i.e. http://ec.europa.eu/odr) from their website to the ODR platform. To signpost the ODR platform, traders can use the following clickable web-banners that are available in the different EU languages.
Background: EU legislation on Alternative and Online Dispute Resolution
The legal framework for consumer Alternative and Online Dispute Resoution is established by the following acts:
The Commission worked with national experts to facilitate the transposition of the ADR Directive in the framework of the ADR Expert Group. A document addressing issues emerging from the meetings held by the Group is available in the Expert Group’s register.