Every turn of the year again...a legal change - which not only triggers new information obligations for online traders, but also brings with it a new danger of warning letters!
It is about the implementation of the EU Regulation No. 524/2013 (so-called ODR Regulation) on the possibility of online dispute resolution for both consumers and traders. For this purpose, the latter must provide a link in their online shops from 9 January 2016 referring to an online platform on which online dispute resolution is to be able
to take place (Art. 14 (1) of the Regulation).
Time is pressing - so first the most important things first:
Copy the following link from the EU Commission and paste it in an easily accessible place, such as on the start page, within the imprint or the GTC, but only if these can be accessed in the shop at any time: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr/
In fact, it is also irrelevant here that the platform is not yet operational and will only be available from 15 February 2016 - nevertheless, insert the relevant link by 9.01.2016 at the latest!
Background to the regulation
The responsible EU Commission has set itself the goal of strengthening consumer confidence in online commerce - also across national borders - by providing them with the possibility of a simple, efficient, fast and inexpensive out-of-court solution for disputes: the online dispute resolution (so-called "ODR platform"). According to the ODR Regulation, online traders should undertake to inform consumers about this electronic possibility of alternative dispute resolution.
On the ODR platform itself, consumers as well as traders should be able
to submit complaints by filling in an online form available in all official languages of the countries of the EU and attach relevant documents. The complaints should then be forwarded via the platform to the ADR entity (ADR entity) competent for the dispute in question. The ODR platform should provide a free electronic case management tool that allows ADR entities to manage the dispute resolution process with the parties through the ODR platform.
So far, in cases of lost or defective goods, there was only the way to court; the attempt to resolve the disputes also out of court was often not effective and mostly remained unresolved - all the more so in cross-border online transactions. In this respect, the ODR platform cannot be used for disputes in offline contracts or disputes between two companies.
Further information (unfortunately only in English) is currently available at the following link:
The EU Regulation applies independently of the VSBG
In Germany, the new consumer protection law for out-of-court conciliation, the new Consumer Dispute Settlement Act (VSBG), has been passed. This also provides for similar information obligations for online traders - but only for the beginning of 2017.
Nevertheless, the provisions of the EU model apply regardless of the national development of the VSBG, so you must include the reference to the ODR platform in your shop in any case!
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The author of this article Hans-Peter Kröger is a lawyer and wine merchant. He offers business members of Wein-Plus very favourable consulting packages as part of a framework agreement. Further information and contact details can be found here: Framework agreement RA Kröger