The 1st October 2015 was quite a momentous day for ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) and ODR (Online Dispute Resolution). Its just a pity very few businesses in the UK knew about it. Very few knew that, when they walked into their offices or opened virtually for their online business, they were now the unpaid marketing agents for Online Dispute Resolution. It was from that day that large numbers of businesses were required to comply with The Alternative Dispute Resolution For Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015. This means that all those dissatisfied customers who bought products or services for a purpose other than business, trade, profession or craft, and with whom the business had not resolved the issue directly with them, must now be informed by the relevant businesses of the web address of a provider of ADR that has been approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute as satisfying certain standards required by the Regulations. Since such standards include using a system that enables claims to be raised, and information to be exchanged, online, the ADR provider must also be an ODR provider.
The Regulations are the UK enactment of the EU Directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution (2013/11/EU) which, together with the EU Regulation on Online Dispute Resolution (524/2013) is meant to improve consumer trust and confidence in the Single Market and in particular, although, save for the Regulation on ODR, not restricted in impact to such purchases, in buying online.
What if anything needs to be done to avoid this welcome initiative of the EU failing to deliver if business continues in ignorance of the rules. There does not seem to be any interest in government to fund enforcement. No doubt one of the problems is that to begin to enforce could be a major task given the widespread level of breach.
A private email to the author from a senior member of staff at the UK Government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills hints at part of the problem:-
“Given that implementation of the Directive is now pretty much complete my team is now focusing on other matters”
I have presented recently two complaints, one to a well known online ticketing agency, the other to well known parcel delivery service. In both cases their staff were totally ignorant of the law and proceeded to commit their employers to breaches.
I gave a short talk on the subject at a local business network and was not able, in talking to people, to identify anyone with prior knowledge of the law. I have not found much if any, coverage in the general media. The only broadcast item on the subject I have been able to find is an interview with myself on BBC Radio Merseyside. If you want to learn more of the background to the law you can listen to that at the top of the right hand column when this item is closed.
From January 2016, every business with a website, and marketplace platforms on which others sell items, are required to contain a hyperlink to a new European Commission website platform that will facilitate the referral of dissatisfied customers to approved ADR providers. With non-compliance becoming more transparent and, hopefully, by then greater public awareness, maybe this will lead to a growth in a new variation of 'New Years Resolutions' than hitherto we have become accustomed to expect.
More information is covered in earlier items in this blog especially one referring to a paper of mine on the Unintended Consequences of this legislation.