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Consumer Update: Online Dispute Resolution platform launched by European Commission
03 February 2016

The Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015 (“ADR Regulations”) requires businesses to provide consumers with certain information regarding Alternative Dispute Resolution services (ADR). 

Since 1 October 2015, a business involved in a consumer dispute that it is unable to resolve through its own internal complaints process must provide the consumer with the following information in a durable medium (which includes email):

  • A statement that the business cannot resolve the dispute
  • details of a relevant ADR provider and its contact details and
  • whether the business is obliged to or willing to use this ADR provider

The obligation is to provide consumers with information regarding an ADR provider but the business does not have to use ADR unless the business is legally obliged or committed to. Trading Standards’ list of approved ADR providers is set out here

If a business is legally obliged or committed to use a certified ADR provider then the business must, in addition to the above, also provide information about the ADR provider on its website and in its general contract terms.

From 15 February 2016, an online trader entering into sales or service contracts with consumers and an online marketplace enabling consumers and traders to conclude sales or service contracts online must also do the following:

  • display a link to the new European Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform and
  • provide an email address on the website (a contact form is not sufficient)

There are additional information requirements for businesses which are legally obliged to or committed to using ADR.

The aim of the ODR platform is to encourage the use of ADR to resolve disputes and allows complaints to be filed, responded to and handled in any one of the 23 different EU languages. It will also deal with EU cross border disputes.

Traders providing goods and services to consumers need to be aware of the ADR Regulations and ensure compliance with the information requirements. In the event that a business fails to comply with these requirements, Trading Standards can seek a court order requiring compliance.

For further information regarding the information requirements and/or the new ODR platform, please contact Sarah Williamson.

Caller Identity Consultation Launched

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has launched a consultation concerning the requirement for direct marketing callers to provide Calling Line Identification (CLI). Implementation would mean that any direct marketing callers (live or automated) could no longer withhold their details when making a telephone call to a consumer, and would instead be required to display an identifying telephone number to which a return call could be made.

Should the proposed change come into force, breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR) could be more easily enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office. CLI failures would leave marketers open to “serious contravention” penalties under the PECR, worth up to £500,000. Similarly, CLI breaches would also constitute “persistent misuse” of electronic communications networks or services under the Communications Act 2003, which itself imposes a potential liability of up to £2,000,000.

With the consultation closing on 23 February 2016, and any changes likely to be implemented by Spring 2016, thousands of organisations who make direct marketing calls to consumers may face far more stringent CLI obligations in the near future. We will publish further details on the results of the CLI consultation and any changes in due course.

If you would like to discuss this further or find out more about how the Commercial & Technology team can help your business please contact Sarah Williamson on 0118 952 7247 or email [email protected].

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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