European Commission announces new obligations for online traders

4th February 2016 | News

Traders established in the European Union (EU) that sell or provide goods or services online to consumers must soon provide a link to the European Commission’s online dispute resolution (ODR) platform on their own websites.

From 15th February 2016, online traders must also include their email address on their website, giving customers a direct point of contact in the event of a dispute.

The new European ODR platform is designed to give consumers, traders and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) providers the opportunity file, respond to, and handle disputes online; include claims where the trader and consumer are in differing countries within the EU.

Where an online trader is required to use an approved ADR provider – whether by law, by scheme membership or by contract – they must provide further information to consumers. Therefore, not only must traders link to the ODR platform on their website, they must also inform consumers of the existence of the ADR platform and the opportunity to use the platform to resolve disputes.

The platform must also be included within any standard terms and conditions of business.

Online marketplaces, which don’t strictly sell products or services direct to consumers and instead facilitate transactions between traders and consumers, will also be required to provide a link to the ODR platform on their website.

Disputes filed through the new ODR platform are capable of being handled by all approved ADR providers. Once a consumer files a dispute through the ODR platform, it will identify a suitable ADR provider to handle the claim. The provider can only refuse to deal with the dispute if it is deemed frivolous or one which falls outside the minimum and maximum values of claim that the provider handles.

Any online trader which fails to comply with the information requirements above is at risk of being handed a court order from trading standards services for non-compliance.

In the event the order is not complied with the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine and two years’ imprisonment.