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Author:Tess Van Gaal
Language: English

Consumers are buying more and more goods online. However, a lot of them in Europe experience problems with online transactions: faulty or damaged goods, overcharged or unexpected fees, late deliveries. Very often the disputes between consumers and companies do not get solved. One of the reasons is that consumers feel intimidated by big companies and they do not go to court for help, because either the international company is situated in another country or because of length of time and cost of a process. The EU wanted to put an end to this and decided to create a platform which aims for online dispute resolution between consumers and companies to solve disputes amicably and out of court. The EU hopes to significantly decrease unresolved disputes of online buying and increase trust in online shopping, in order to improve international online trade.

The EU created an open internal market with no boundaries or taxes between the Member States. The digital dimension of the internal market is becoming more and more vital for both consumers and companies. Consumers increasingly make purchases online, they should feel at ease when buying goods online, so it is essential to get rid of existing barriers and to boost consumer confidence. However, there is currently a lack of mechanisms which allow consumers and traders to resolve such disputes through electronic means. The most important point to improve is the access for consumers to fast, efficient and low cost ways of resolving disputes that arise from buying goods or services online. This lack led to an obstacle to the development of online trade. The Union decided to adopt a regulation that led to the creating of the online platform for alternative dispute resolution[1]. The platform is supposed to be an interactive website offering one point of entry to consumers and traders that want to resolve disputes out-of-court.

The EU wanted the platform to provide general information regarding the resolution of contractual disputes between traders and consumers, allowing them to submit complaints by filling in an electronic complaint form available in all the official languages of the European Union. The complaints are then transferred to an entity competent to deal with the dispute concerned. Furthermore, the platform is free of charge, and every company within the EU is obligated to inform the consumer about the platform, the link (http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr/) and the email of the contact person within the company to address as a first point of contact. The platform should lead to fast solutions, as it aims to solve cases within 90 days.

[1] Regulation 524/2013 on online dispute resolution for consumer disputes