On 17 October 2023, the European Commission proposed amendments to the directive on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes (Directive on consumer ADR). Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to a procedure in which a consumer dispute is resolved by an out-of-court, impartial ADR entity. The Commission proposal contains a series of reforms aimed at simplifying the resolution of disputes out of court and improving consumer protection in the EU. The goal of the proposed amendments is to adapt existing rules to changing digital markets and to expand the scope of the ADR Directive.
The primary objective of the new measures is to provide consumers with efficient, accessible and fair means to resolve disputes, especially in cases related to misleading marketing, dark patterns, access to services and unjustified geoblocking. Dark patterns include practices used in the design of websites that manipulate or otherwise cause the consumer to do something that they did not originally intend to do. The proposal is part of a more extensive EU strategy aimed at ensuring that consumers can effectively defend their rights across borders and in an increasingly digital environment.
Key points of the proposal
- Expanding the scope: The goal of the new ADR Directive is to cover all aspects of EU consumer protection legislation and to ensure that non-EU traders also comply with the rules. The expansion addresses dishonest practices such as dark patterns, misleading marketing and unjustified geoblocking.
- Incentivising the participation of businesses: At present, it is up to each Member State to decide whether participating in the ADR procedure is compulsory or voluntary for businesses. The same is true in the new proposal. However, the proposal imposes an obligation on traders to reply within 20 working days, indicating whether they intend to participate in the ADR procedure. This aims to accelerate the process and encourage businesses to participate in the ADR procedure.
- Improving consumer assistance: Each Member State will designate an ADR contact point to provide support and information to consumers on the ADR procedure and other legal protection methods. The support may include assistance with translation or launching a case, and information on the procedure itself and any related fees. According to the Commission’s proposal, the local European Consumer Centre in each country could serve as an ADR contact point.
The Commission has also put forward a proposal to replace the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform with a new tool that would help consumers find legal protection methods.
The Commission’s proposal has to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.