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9 February 2016

Impending online dispute resolution (ODR) requirements for online traders

With effect from 15 February 2016, anyone who sells goods and/or services online will be required to include certain information about online dispute resolution (ODR) upon their website.

The European Commission (EC) has expressed concern that consumers are often reluctant to buy goods and services online because of fears that any disputes concerning those goods or services would not be adequately resolved. As such, the EC is establishing an online ODR platform which is due to go live on 15 February 2016 (see the Consumer ODR Regulation – ‘the Regulation’). The objective is to encourage consumer confidence in online commerce and the platform will include an electronic complaint form and the facility to conduct an entire dispute resolution procedure online free of charge.

It is essential to be aware that anyone established in the EU who trades online is required to include a link to this platform from 15 February upon their website together with their own email address (article 14(1) of the Regulation). This includes online marketplaces.

Further, if the online trader is committed or obliged to use an ADR entity/entities to resolve disputes with consumers (e.g. by contract or trade association requirements), it will have an additional obligation to inform consumers about the existence of the ODR platform and the possibility of using it for resolving disputes, and both its general terms and conditions and any email offer made to a consumer needs to contain an electronic link to the ODR platform.

The requirement to notify customers about the ODR platform and ODR generally is likely to require you to look again at your website terms and conditions.

Browne Jacobson is hosting a digital transformation event on 24 February 2016, which is highly recommended for anyone interested in how the digital age is impacting commerce.

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