As such procedures are an alternative to resolving disputes before a court they are called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). When they are carried out online, they are called Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).
Resolving disputes through ADR/ODR, in general, is easier, faster and less expensive than resolving disputes before a court.
In the European Union, ADR/ODR procedures can take different forms and they can have different names e.g. arbitration, mediation, ombudsmen, complaints boards.
On 21 May 2013, the European legislator adopted new legislation on Alternative Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution:
The new legislation on ADR and ODR will allow consumers and traders to resolve their disputes without going to court in an easy, fast and inexpensive way.
The ADR Directive ensures that consumers have access to ADR for resolving their contractual disputes with traders. Access to ADR is ensured no matter what product or service they purchased (only disputes regarding health and higher education are excluded), whether the product or service was purchased online or offline and whether the trader is established in the consumer’s Member State or in another Member State.
Member States will establish national lists of bodies offering ADR procedures (ADR bodies). All ADR bodies included in those lists will have to comply with binding quality requirements.
In order to facilitate the transposition of the ADR Directive, the Commission has established an Expert Group composed of national ADR experts. A document addressing issues emerging from the meetings held by the Expert Group until March 2015 is available in the Expert Group’s register under the tab “Additional Information” under the section “Activity Report” for the Expert Group’s fourth meeting on 17 March 2015.
Under the ODR Regulation, the European Commission will establish a European Online Dispute Resolution platform (ODR platform). The ODR platform is a web-based platform that is specifically designed to help consumers who have bought goods or services online and subsequently have a problem with that online purchase. It allows consumers to submit their contractual dispute and conduct the ADR procedure online and in any of the 23 official languages of the European Union. The ODR platform transmits disputes only to ADR bodies who are included in the national lists of ADR bodies that comply with the binding quality requirements established by the ADR Directive.
The Online Dispute Resolution platform
The ODR platform is operational as of 9 January 2016 (see press release) and made accessible in stages. It will become accessible to consumers and traders on 15 February 2016 under: http://ec.europa.eu/odr