The proposedEU Digital Services Act is designed to “regulate the obligations of digital services that act as intermediaries in their role of connecting consumers with goods, services, and content… It will give better protection to consumers and to fundamental rights online, establish a powerful transparency and accountability framework for online platforms and lead to fairer and more open digital markets… Harmonised across the EU and directly applicable, the new rules will make it easier to provide digital innovations across borders, while ensuring the same level of protection to all citizens in the EU.”
This Act includes several several sections related to ODR, particularly in terms of disputed content: “The proposal gives users and consumers the possibility to contest the decisions taken by the online platforms to remove their content, including when these decisions are based on platforms’ terms and conditions. Users can complain directly to the platform, choose an out-of-court dispute settlement body or seek redress before courts. “
As well as the requirements for ODR providers operating under the Act:
Consumer protection and trust is at the
forefront of all discussions related to commerce. While millions of
transactions fulfill the purchasing expectations of the customers there is
quite a considerable number of them that do not. Consumers are mostly
uninformed of the existence of online dispute resolution tools and
instead of using
them they are subjected to a dispute
by being directed to other
customer service tools (if the trader has
such) and by struggling to establish
communication with the right department/person through lengthy & persisting efforts. As the
volumes of e-commerce are growing, so is the lack of trust by consumers as to
the redress mechanisms the traders are making available to them to address
their concerns when a problem occurs.
On the other hand, the majority
of traders seem to have prioritized the use of ADR mechanisms pretty low in their agenda. They tend to exhaust dispute resolution efforts to direct negotiations with their customers, do not seem to have appreciated the added value of the involvement of a third neutral
party in the ADR process and seem to prefer postponement of their engagement in it under the belief
that the low value claims discourage consumers to pursue further action through costly & time consuming court proceedings.
That is a reality that calls for further thinking on the idea of establishing a
framework of a mandatory ADR process for consumer disputes just like is being done
more and more in several jurisdictions in civil, commercial and family
This is where we
stand at the moment. So what we need is to act on two different levels. The
first one is to connect technology with consumer dispute resolution. Not in the
abstract, but through real tools of everyday use. We need to provide a
super-fast, efficient and easily accessible environment for both consumers and
traders. The consumer must be able to use online ADR at a distance of a click.
They must have the option to seek redress instantly. Even at the premises of
the trader. So, they need what we could call an “ADR go”. Available at all
times, in all places. Smartphones can play a key role in providing
access to such ADR mechanisms. With the number of
smartphones projected to be 3,5 billion in 2020, 1 billion up from 2016, it is
estimated that in 12 years most of the word population will hold a smartphone.
The second level we
need to work on is to address the skepticism of the traders. To understand and
discuss their concerns. We need to build on a system that will facilitate honest
direct negotiations between the consumer and the trader. Make them understand
that the goal is neither replacing direct negotiations with neutral resolutions
nor aiming solely at consumer protection, but rather at the protection of both.
They need to realize that direct negotiations and ADR is a single two stage
process that creates value and as such must be an integral part of their
services to their customers. In that sense they need to have a modern online
environment, customized to their needs. A cloud system that will allow them to
manage cases internally and immediately and to help them acknowledge the
complementary role of an ADR body in handling a number of unresolved disputes.
A system that would become standard practice offering a customer-centered service that will upgrade the company’s
image and reputation.
This is exactly what we envisage with the ADR4ALL app and the components we currently add. We are creating a consumer-trader ADR ecosystem that provides all the necessary features and tools for addressing consumer disputes. The ADR4ALL app is a joint project funded by the European Commission and ADR point and is the first smartphone app of its kind in this field not only in Europe but globally.
The ADR4ALL app
operates in both android and iOS systems and combines an easy interface and a
dynamic case management tool. The app offers an introductory tutorial of the
submission process and the user can easily file a complaint in a few clicks following
the app wizard. After submitting a case the consumer can watch the status of
the complaint by clicking a button at the toolbar of his app. A software calculates
whether the dispute resolution process is a free or a paid service and the
consumer is informed of the next steps in the process. After a complaint is
submitted the system manager runs a dual check and if the case is admissible a
case handler is appointed and once the trader consents to participate, the case
moves on to the dispute resolution process which is completed either when
parties reach an agreement during their communication with the trader or when
the case handler proposes a solution which the parties may or may not follow
depending on the procedural rules of the ADR body the case has been referred
to. In the upcoming few months the ADR4ALL smartphone app will be converted
into a holistic ADR ecosystem for consumers & traders. New features will be
integrated which will allow several levels of management, a direct negotiation
system built-in the app, a traders’ interactive customer management platform
enabling negotiations and dispute resolution by an ADR body, features making
the app accessible by vulnerable consumers, time alerts, case statistics,
reviews for traders and so on.
The ADR4ALL app is an easy entry point to dispute
The updated version will be an entry point to an ADR ecosystem. What the
consumers need is instant access to simple redress mechanisms. What the traders
need is a familiar and well explained resolution process smoothly integrated in
their customer service philosophy. What both the consumers and the traders need
is full trust in ODR. Our endless effort is to let them know that dispute
resolution technology has tools that can serve their needs. Matching “buying
online” with “resolving online” will be the new deal for consumers and traders
in the future ahead.
Petros Zourdoumis, Founder of ODReurope , General Director of ADR point, Fellow at the NCTDR, Member of the Central Mediation Committee of the Ministry of Justice.