New Dispute Resolution requirements for all online sellers

Whilst UK Politicians are gearing up to takes side on the In/Out EU referendum, another piece of EU legislation is about to hit all online sellers who trade outside their home country. For us in the UK, that means if you sell to France, Germany or any other EU country you need to read on:

ODR for cross border traders

According to European Regulation on Consumer ODR (ODR Regulation), all businesses selling goods or services online within the EU must carry the following link on their website to the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Platform.

Technically you’re already in breach of the regulations as they were due to come into effect on the 9th of January. However the EU didn’t have their website ready which will now launch on the 15th of February.

Basically to sum it up, you have to provide a link to the EU’s online dispute resolution service so that buyers can complain about you there rather than the more expensive option of taking you to court. The idea is that you and your problem buyer will be able to sort things out relatively amicably and without racking up legal fees.

What actions do you need to take?

Participation in the ODR is optional, but even if you choose not to participate there are some requirements for all business sellers. Online retailers including marketplace sellers must link to the ODR platform in an easily accessible place.

Seriously guys, we know you’ve just edited all your eBay listings to meet the Product Identifier requirements. We don’t believe you can stick the link in your Business Seller Information which would be a one time easy update as it’ll be text only, not a live link.

If you have an “About Us” page in your shop we’d suggest you stick the link their and have done with it (and if you don’t create a shop page to place the link on). It’s hard to recommend appending it to each and every item description as frankly it doesn’t form part of your product description. Whilst of course we have to suggest you obey the letter of the law, this is one instance where we’d suggest doing the absolute minimum required. The chance are that if you’ve bothered reading this far you’re a reputable seller who will rectify any customer issues before it gets to ODR or goes legal.

An eBay spokesperson confirmed the news saying “All affected Cross Border Trade sellers will be required to comply with the new rules and display the link to the ODR website. Our current advice for sellers can be found at http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/policies/business.html“.

ADR for UK sellers

As far as the ODR goes you don’t have to worry if you only ever sell to the UK or other countries outside the EU. Unfortunately however, there is another bit of legislatio, which will still apply to you, the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

As with the ODR, the regulations do not make participation in ADR schemes mandatory for traders. However perversely they do require almost all online retailers to point the consumer to a certified ADR scheme – where they cannot resolve a dispute in-house – and declare whether or not they intend to use that scheme.

In other words you could point your disgruntled customer to an approved ADR scheme and then tell them you have no intention of using ADR and you’ll see them in court (or more likely you’ll just resolve the issue and move on).