E-commerce and the Obligation to Inform Consumers about the ODR platform

All companies established in the EU, which are conducting e-commerce business, shall provide information about ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) and a link to the European Commission’s online platform ODR on their web sites, see http://ec.europa.eu/odr. This applies also when the company only offers its products or services to consumers on the Swedish market. Furthermore, the e-commerce company shall present their e-mail address and the web address and e-mail address of the Swedish National Board for Consumer Disputes (Sw.  Allmänna Reklamationsnämnden – ARN) on its web site. ARN has been appointed as the Swedish ODR institute. Information about the ODR platform and ARN shall also be provided in the company’s general terms and conditions.

The above mentioned obligations follow from inter alia the new act on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes which entered into force on 1 January 2016 (Sw. lag [2015:671] om alternativ tvistlösning i konsumentförhållanden). The Act implements the ADR Directive[1]. 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 has been 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 Member State.

The act on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes also contains complementary rules to the Regulation no 524/2013 on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes[2].

The rules on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes (ADR) and online dispute resolution for consumer disputes (ODR) have been adopted with the aim to increase the free movement of goods and services on the internal market.

If a consumer has a problem with a trader regarding a product or service which the consumer has bought, the dispute can be settled via these out-of-court proceedings. Such out-of-court proceedings are an alternative to resolve disputes before a court.

In the different Member States ADR/ODR proceedings can take different forms and they can have different names e.g., arbitration, mediation, ombudsman, complaints boards. The Member States shall establish national lists of bodies offering ADR procedures (ADR bodies). All ADR bodies included in those lists will have to comply with binding quality requirements.

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.

The ODR platform allows consumers to submit their disputes online in any of the 24 official languages of the EU. 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. ECC Sweden - a standalone unit within the Swedish Consumer Agency (Sw. Konsumentverket) has been appointed contact point for the online dispute resolution.

ODR is thus a set of rules on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes based on national or international e-commerce and a platform with the aim to resolve such disputes.

What happens if you are in breach of the rules? The information which shall be provided is deemed to be material information (Sw. väsentlig information) according to the Swedish Marketing Act (Sw. marknadsföringslagen). If the trader does not provide the information, the trader is in breach of the Marketing Act.

Author: Anna Fernqvist Svensson

[1] Directive 2013/11/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC (Directive on consumer ADR).

[2] Regulation (EU) No 524/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC (Regulation on consumer ODR).