New Rules Apply For Dispute Resolution for Consumers
Following the advent of the Consumer Rights Act in October 2015, consumer rights have been further enhanced by further legislation relating to the resolution of disputes between consumers and traders. The legislation is aimed at promoting alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) as ADR is an effective, low cost means of dealing with consumer disputes.
In 2015 regulations came into force (“the Consumer ADR Regulations”) with the aim of promoting the use of ADR in consumer disputes via the use of approved ADR providers that ensure minimum quality standards.
The Consumer ADR Regulations do not make use of ADR in consumer disputes compulsory but ADR must be made available where both parties agree to use it, for example by contractual terms. It is also possible that traders may be obliged by law or via their membership of any trade association to use ADR. If so the traders must provide details to the consumer of the name and website address of its ADR provider. This information must also be given in general terms and conditions relating to the trader’s business dealings with consumers.
The second piece of legislation amending the Consumer ADR Regulations came into force in January 2016. This applies additional obligations to online traders and relates to the introduction of an Online Dispute Resolutions (“ODR”) platform by the European Commission. The ODR Platform will help consumers access ADR across Europe and so make cross border disputes easier for consumers to pursue. Online traders who are obliged to use an ADR provider (whether by virtue of membership of a trade association, by law or by a contractual terms) must provide a link to the ODR Platform in any offer made to a consumer by email and must inform consumers of the existence of the ODR Platform and possibility of using it to resolve disputes. This information must be included in the trader’s terms and conditions and a link to the ODR platform must be included on the trader’s website. The deadline for the provision of this information is 15 February 2016.
What should traders do now?
Traders must take steps now to include the appropriate information in standard terms and conditions and to provide a link to the ODR platform on their websites. Please talk to Tollers on 01908 396230 and ask for Liz Appleyard in our Commercial Team about how this may affect your business.