A new Online Dispute Resolution procedure is now available to EU consumers

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As from 15.2.2016, consumers located in all Member States, including Greece, could make use of the new Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) procedure and platform, introduced with the Regulation (EU) 524/2013. The ODR platform set by EU Commission started to operate on 9.1.2016 and became accessible to consumers and traders across EU on 15.2.2016. From now on, consumers and traders could resolve their contractual disputes online by using the ODR platform to submit their complaint. That said, it shall be stressed that not all consumer complaints could be settled through the ODR platform, but only those arising out of online sales or service contracts. To ensure that all consumers are fully aware of and able to use the ODR procedure, the above Regulation imposes an obligation upon the online traders to provide on their websites an electronic link to the ODR platform and to state their email addresses (please keep in mind that if you don’t have the email address of the trader, the complaint cannot be submitted through the ODR platform).

The bodies involved in the ODR procedure is the EU Commission (as regards the operation of the platform) and the national Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) entities as set in line with Directive 2013/11/EU, which are competent to deal with the consumers complaints. The Greek ADR entities are (as set by the Common Ministerial Decision No. 70330/2015 implementing the said Directive): a) The Independent Authority of Consumer Ombudsman and b) the Hellenic Ombudsman for Banking – Investment Services.

The ODR procedure is simple, fast and low-cost, particularly in comparison with litigation proceedings before national courts. The consumer accesses the ODR platform and submits the complaint through an electronic form. The complaint is then forwarded to the trader who is given a 10-day deadline to respond to whether the trader accepts the ODR procedure. Both the consumer and the trader have to agree on the ADR entity that will handle the complaint; otherwise the ODR procedure cannot be triggered. The platform provides a list with all competent ADR entities to facilitate users. Upon such agreement, the dispute is forwarded to the ADR entity for consideration.

As regards complaints handled by the Greek ADR entities, such procedure is free-of-charge and is expected to be completed within 90 days as of receipt of the dispute case-file (in case of complex complaints, Greek ADR entities may extend this time-frame). Consumers or traders may withdraw from the procedure at any time. In case the parties reach an agreement, the Greek ADR entity compiles the relevant minutes of settlement. The minutes of settlement may be submitted, by any party, before the Single-Member Court of First Instance of the region where the competent Greek ADR is located and from then on constitute an enforcement title. This practically means that in case of non-compliance enforcement proceedings under the Greek Civil Procedure Code may be initiated against the non-complying party. Further clarifications on the ODR procedure and the procedural rules of the Greek ADR entities could be provided by the Independent Authority of Consumer Ombudsman which serves also as the Greek contact point for the ODR procedure and provides support to the resolution of disputes through the ODR platform.

In some jurisdictions, the ODR procedure could be also used by traders to submit complaints against consumers. This is no such option available for disputes that fall within the scope of Greek law, namely in cases of traders that are situated in Greece.

Consumers that do not wish to make use of the ODR procedure but still want to settle their disputes with traders out-of-court, could make use of the (non-online) ADR procedure provided under Directive 2013/11/ΕU (as implemented in Greek law by Common Ministerial Decision No. 70330/2015). In Greece, this Directive has been implemented into national law by virtue of the above mentioned Common Ministerial Decision No. 70330/2015. In such cases, the complaint is made directly to the ADR entities in accordance with their internal procedural rules.