Alternative/Online dispute resolution
Alternative Dispute Resolution
If you are in dispute with a consumer and want to avoid a court procedure, Alternative Dispute Resolution might be the option for you. Compared with going to court, Alternative Dispute Resolution is usually quicker, simpler and costs less. This term describes all the different ways of resolving a complaint that don't involve going to court. You might know it as 'mediation', 'conciliation', 'arbitration', 'ombudsman' or 'complaints' board'.
Either you or the consumer asks a neutral third party to step in and act as an intermediary between them and you; this neutral third party is called a dispute resolution body. This body might suggest a solution to the complaint, impose a solution on both parties or just bring both together to discuss how to find a solution.
According to EU legislation, dispute resolution bodies are assessed by Member States and must meet a number of quality requirements to guarantee that they operate in an effective, fair, impartial, independent and transparent way when dealing with your disputes. An outcome is usually reached within 90 days.
You have access to these bodies for all contractual disputes you may have with your customers in all EU countries. Find an alternative dispute resolution body in your country.
Alternative Dispute Resolution can save you litigation costs and facilitate the selling of goods and services in your country or abroad, online or offline. It can also help you maintain your business reputation and good customer relations.
Online Dispute Resolution
This platform is only for disputes between Businesses and Consumers.
If you are in dispute with a consumer over an online purchase and want to avoid a court procedure, the online dispute resolution platform might be the right tool to achieve a quick and economical solution. You may use this platform to make a complaint about a customer (e.g. non-payment) or your customer may use it to make a complaint about you.
This interactive website is available in all EU languages and is free of charge. One of the competent dispute resolution bodies that are registered with the platform will receive and handle your dispute. All procedures will be conducted online.
You can download an infographic for an overview on how the Online Dispute Resolution platform works and your obligations as a trader.
Which procedure do I have to follow?
If a complaint is submitted through the online dispute resolution platform you and your customer will need to agree on the alternative dispute resolution body that will handle the complaint. Be aware, as each dispute resolution body has its own rules and procedures, possibly including fees.
While the dispute is being processed, the dispute resolution body may contact you to ask you for more information or documents or to invite you to a meeting.
You can appoint a representative to assist you. This means you are asking someone else to lodge the complaint or follow up the case on your behalf.
At any stage of the procedure you can request information or help. There is a national contact point in every EU country that can help you with your complaint.
Be aware that some contact points can only help you in cross-border disputes.
Linking to the online dispute resolution platform (ODR)
If you do business online you must provide a direct link to the ODR platform from your website. In addition, your email address must be clearly displayed on your website.
When you have the obligation (by law, scheme membership or contract) to use a specific dispute resolution body, you must:
- inform consumers — via your website — about this dispute resolution body and also include it in your terms and conditions;
- inform consumers about the ODR platform in your terms and conditions and in your email offers.
You have the option to link to the ODR platform by using our web banners.
Consumer Law Ready
Consumer Law Ready is an EU-wide programme, offering free training courses in consumer law for micro businesses and SMEs. You can apply to attend a training course in your country to ensure that your SME is Consumer Law Ready.
You may prefer to learn at your own speed, sign up to access the educational material. You can then complete an e-test and validate your learning with a certificate.
Check out the Consumer Law Ready portal to discover how you can sign up.