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Alternative Dispute Resolution

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Settling a dispute out of court

If you, as a consumer, have a complaint about a product or service you have bought, instead of going to court, you can choose Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

This means you can ask a neutral third party to act as an intermediary between you and the trader. This third party is called an ADR entity. The ADR entity can then suggest or impose a solution, or simply bring the two parties together to discuss how to find a solution. This is also known as mediation, arbitration or conciliation. Compared with going to court, ADR is usually quicker, simpler and costs less.

For online transactions, the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform can be used. Read on for more information about ADR and the ODR platform.

Good to know

If you have a problem with a trader, an ADR body can help you solve it. You can contact an ADR body if you have a cross-border issue or a dispute with a domestic business. The ADR procedure is available either free of charge or at a small fee.

Before submitting a complaint to an ADR body, you should contact the business directly and try to solve the dispute with them. If you skip this step, most ADR bodies will reject your request for mediation.

If you would like to submit a complaint, you will need to contact an ADR body which is located in the same country as the business you have the issue with.

A list of appointed ADR bodies are available on the European Commission’s website. You can also read more about the costs of an ADR procedure and the language in which you can file a complaint. In Ireland the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission provides a list of recognised ADR bodies.  Access the list of recognised ADR bodies

ADR bodies often have an online complaint form on their website that you can use to submit your complaint.

After you have submitted the request, a written procedure will follow. The procedure takes an estimated 90 days.

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution for online purchases. ODR is used if you have an issue with an online seller in the EU, Iceland or Norway. The European Commission provides a dedicated ODR platform.

This platform can help you search for the right ADR body. It also offers all consumers who live in an EU member state, Iceland or Norway the opportunity to get into contact with a business directly or the platform can request that the business suggest a competent ADR body. There are more than 400 notified ADR bodies listed on the platform.

To file a complaint through the ODR platform, you should follow these steps:

  • Fill out the online complaint form and submit a request to get into direct contact with the business.

There are two ways that you can use the tool:

  1. Use it to enter into a direct conversation with the trader, when you submit the complaint. You will need to click the button that says ‘Send to trader for a solution.’
  2. Or you can file a complaint to seek resolution through a notified ADR body. You will need to click the button ‘Use a dispute resolution body.’
  • The platform will notify the business of your request. If the trader has not engaged with the process within 30 days, the case will be closed
  • If the trader is willing to talk, you will be able to exchange messages directly through the ODR dashboard

If the trader does not want to resolve the problem directly with you on the platform, they can suggest a list of ADR bodies to use instead. If they do:

  • You have 30 days to agree on the ADR body you will use. If you fail to do so, your case will be closed
  • If you agree to use one of the ADR bodies suggested by the business, you should confirm it on the platform
  • Your dispute will automatically be transferred to the ADR body in question for consideration
  • The ADR body will handle the complaint online and will have 90 days to make a decision
  • Either party can withdraw from the process at any time