STAY TUNED !
Earlier this year the European Parliament adopted two key legislative measures regarding the resolution of consumer disputes in Europe. The new regulation mandates that all businesses selling goods or services to consumers online in any European Union member state, excluding those in the health and education sectors, make available a link to a EU-wide online platform that will be set up to handle consumer disputes.
The directive requires all EU member states to implement the Online Dispute Resolution initiative within 2 years of the regulation’s entry into force. The directive applies to any purchase made domestically or across EU borders.
The official press release can be seen below.
Brussels, 12 March 2013
A step forward for EU consumers: Commissioner Tonio Borg welcomes adoption of Out-of-court Dispute Resolution
Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, welcomed the vote of the European Parliament on Alternative Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution (ADR-ODR) today. This vote confirms the agreement on the two proposals put forward by the European Commission in 2011.
Tonio Borg said: “Today, the European Parliament confirmed its agreement on two key proposals for boosting growth in the Single Market and strengthening the Digital economy. ADR and ODR are a win-win for consumers, who will be able to resolve their disputes out-of-court in a simple, fast and low-cost manner, and also for traders who will be able to keep good relations with customers and avoid litigation costs. It must be stressed that the EU institutions achieved a fast agreement which will significantly improve everyday life for consumers across Europe”.
He also added: “I want to take this opportunity to thank the rapporteurs of the two proposals at the European Parliament, Louis Grech and Róża Thun, for their commitment to reach an agreement. I am also grateful to the Member States and the Presidencies of the Council for their intensive work on these files. This is a truly inter-institutional achievement to boost consumers’ and traders’ confidence in the internal market and its digital dimension.”
The rules on ADR will ensure that consumers can turn to quality alternative dispute resolution entities for all kinds of contractual disputes that they have with traders; no matter what they purchased1 and whether they purchased it online or offline, domestically or across borders.
According to the ODR Regulation, an EU-wide online platform will be set up for handling consumer disputes that arise from online transactions. The platform will link all the national alternative dispute resolution entities and operate in all official EU languages.
Raising consumers’ awareness is another pillar of this legislation, as traders will need to provide consumers with adequate information on ADR and ODR.
Member States will have two years to implement the ADR/ODR rules. The ODR platform will be operational at the end of 2015.
For more information:
Everything you always wanted to know about eQuibbly – download it by clicking on this link or view it below:
By Lance Soskin
There are few elements more important to a free and democratic society than an open, fair and accessible justice system. This is never more apparent than when your liberty or livelihood is at stake.
The executive director of The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, Rebecca Love Kourlis, summed-up nicely the state of the American justice system when she said, “If you get in a car wreck, and there’s an argument about who should be paying damages, your assumption is that you can go to court to have that case resolved. The truth of the matter is that’s probably the last place you want to be, because the fees and the costs will ultimately be more than your car is worth, even if you drive a really nice car.”
Due to the nature of our adversarial justice system, it’s more often than not going to be the party with the high-priced attorney who wins in court rather than the party with the more meritorious case. Litigation is a multi-billion dollar industry that favors the wealthy. Much of that money simply lines the pockets of attorneys who charge on average between $300 and $700 an hour to tell us what the law is and how it can be manipulated in our favor to vanquish our opponents. That’s great for the small percentage of Americans who can afford a skilled lawyer, but it leaves the rest of the population at a significant disadvantage.
Even if you have a legitimate case, if your opponent has a lot more money to spend on high-priced attorneys who employ delay tactics, as Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den fame would say, either “you’re going to be squashed like the cockroach you are”, or those high-priced lawyers are going to have you tied-up in hearings and motions and pre-trial discovery for so many months or possibly years that you will go broke before you ever get the chance to present the full merits of your case.
Given the complexity of our laws and legal procedures, if we want any hope in hell of protecting our rights, attorneys are a necessary evil. But why should the average person or business owner need to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to get the justice they’re due? If “ignorance of the law is no excuse” when it comes to determining liability or culpability, would it not make more sense for the government to ensure that the laws and procedures can easily be understood by the average person? Shouldn’t justice, in the true sense of the word, be available to everyone?
Although America prides itself on having a fair and accessible government-run justice system, the truth is that for most of us, justice is neither fair, nor easily accessible. The American justice system faces serious issues that are not easily resolved and will not be resolved any time soon without drastic reform. Most of us want, and in fact need, options that are cheaper, quicker and less complicated than going to court or hiring an attorney to fight all our battles. We need to make better use of alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation and arbitration. Given our shrinking budgets, both governments and personal, what other options do we have?
Most people have likely heard the terms Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Arbitration, and Mediation mentioned in different contexts, but many may not know exactly what they are and how they differ.
“Alternative Dispute Resolution” is generally any procedure for settling disputes by means other than litigation. “Arbitration” and “Mediation” are two types of ADR; although not the only two. There are also different forms of arbitration, such as Baseball Arbitration, and different forms of mediation, but that is a topic for another day.
The end-game of mediation and arbitration is the same, that is, to have the disputing parties resolve their dispute and evidence the terms of that resolution or settlement in writing. The major difference is the way in which that goal is achieved.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is an informal process where an impartial third-party helps the disputing parties find a mutually satisfactory solution to their differences. Mediation is a voluntary, confidential extension of the negotiation process where a facilitator guides the parties toward a mutually agreeable settlement. This is achieved by helping the parties clarify their underlying interests and concerns, and encouraging compromise and trade-offs based on the relative importance of each item to each party (not necessarily a tangible item). It is often used where the parties are at a stalemate in their own negotiations.
The mediator’s job is to facilitate a discussion or negotiation between the disputing parties to keep the parties talking and to help move them through the more difficult areas of disagreement. Mediators are not judges and they cannot give legal advice. They never impose a decision upon the parties; rather, they help the parties reach a mutually satisfactory agreement that they’re both motivated to sign and honor.
Mediation is a particularly well-suited process for disputing parties who want to play an active role in determining the outcome of a dispute because it provides an opportunity for parties and their representatives to work through issues with the assistance of an impartial third-person trained to facilitate resolution.
What is Arbitration?
Arbitration is a procedure whereby two or more parties agree to have an unbiased, neutral, third-party (or third-parties) act as judge and jury to resolve their dispute for them, outside of the court system. It is a simplified version of a trial involving limited discovery and simplified rules of evidence and usually decided by either 1 or 3 arbitrators. After giving the parties the opportunity to present their side of the story and to present any relevant documents or other evidence, the arbitrator(s) decide, based on the evidence, who wins and who loses the case. Arbitrators are typically not bound by the laws and procedures that attorneys and judges must adhere to. The parties typically agree to establish their own rules and procedure, or agree to a particular administrating organization’s existing rules and procedures – such as those used by eQuibbly.com.
If the parties agree in advance to “binding arbitration”, the decision of the arbitrators is usually enforceable in a court of law if the losing party does not comply with the terms of the decision. If the parties agree in advance to “non-binding arbitration”, the decision is not enforceable in a court of law; this form of ADR is sometimes used to give the parties an indication of the respective merits of their cases; that is, a reasonable approximation as to which party might win or lose in binding arbitration or in some circumstances, in litigation. The parties are still able to pursue their case in court following non-binding arbitration.
Arbitration is more similar to traditional litigation than is mediation. One important difference to litigation is that, unlike court decisions, arbitration offers limited rights of appeal after a decision is made by the arbitrator. Many contracts, including some consumer contracts like your cell phone service contract or credit card application, have clauses which require that disputes arising out of that contract be subject to binding-arbitration rather than being litigated in court. This helps companies keep their costs down and keep their disputes private.