Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to the procedure where a consumer dispute is resolved by an impartial out-of-court dispute resolution body.
The advantage that ADR has over court proceedings is that it is easy, quick and inexpensive. In most situations this means that the procedure is free of charge and the consumer does not need a lawyer to act for him/her.
ADR in cross-border disputes
The ADR system is a fairly effective resolution tool in cross-border disputes. A cross-border dispute might be one where a Finnish consumer purchases a product from an online shop located in another EU country but the trader does not deliver the product. If the parties top the dispute are unable to resolve the matter between themselves, the European Consumer Centre will try firstly to mediate. If, however, mediation produces no result, the consumer may refer the matter to a dispute resolution body. If the dispute relates to a product or service bought online, the ODR forum may be used to initiate proceedings. More details of this follow.
The competent ADR Body is always determined on a case-by-case basis, although more often than not it is one operating in the trader’s country. You can contact the European Consumer centre to find the right ADR Body.
Alternative Dispute Bodies in Finland and Europe
Every EU country has a number of ADR Bodies, each of which is specialised in resolving disputes about certain kinds of product or service. In Finland there are three such bodies, while in many countries in Europe there may be many times this number.
The Finnish ADR bodies are the Consumer Disputes Board, the Traffic and Patient Injury Board, and the Finnish Financial Ombudsman Bureau (FINE). Further information on the competence of each body is available form the relevant website.
The work of the dispute resolution boards is organised in different ways in different countries, and the resolutions may be issued by, for example, various boards, arbitrators/mediators and consumer ombudsmen. Furthermore, the how legally binding decisions are varies. The decisions taken by the Finnish ADR bodies are in the nature of recommendations that have no legal effects. Most companies, however, comply with them. Some of the corresponding bodies in other countries, on the other hand, can issue legally binding decisions that are the equivalent of court judgments. It is worth noting that every dispute resolution body has its own rules and procedures. From this it follows, for example, that a procedure is generally conducted in the official language of the country in which the ADR body is based.
Finnish ADR bodies
The Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) forum applies to you if you wish to settle a dispute with an online trader using the dedicated online platform for it. The ODR forum is an electronic platform where consumers and traders meet and try to come to an arrangement regarding the same dispute. If you are in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you can find a solution with its help to problems connected with purchases, discuss your problem directly with the trader or agreed on a dispute resolution body to handle your case
The platform is available in all the official languages of the EU, in Icelandic and in Norwegian. You may contact the trader in your own mother tongue and if necessary translate their rely into your own language. It is free of charge to use the ODR platform, but some ADR bodies might charge a handling fee.
Initiating a complaints procedure in the ODR forum
You complained will be filed when you complete the form on the ODR forum. The online dispute resolution body will inform the trader of your complaint. If the trader wishes to negotiate, you can change communications directly on the forum, send attachments and agree on an online meeting. Please note that use of the ODR forum is voluntary for the trader.
The parties have 90 days to reach an agreement. The consumer or trader can withdraw from direct talks at any time. The trader may also propose a list of dispute resolution bodies to be used instead of the parties trying to resolve the dispute between themselves. In such a case, you will have 30 days to agree on one. If you cannot agree on a dispute resolution body, your complaint will no longer be processed.
In Finland, at present, three ADR bodies independent of the courts belong to the ODR forum, they being those mentioned above.
The ODR contact point in Finland in matters relating to cross-border trade is the European Consumer Centre Finland. If you would like more information about what the forum does or whether it would be a suitable forum for dealing with your case, contact us at email@example.com or call our telephone service on +358 29 505 3090, Mon–Thurs 09.00–12.00.
The ODR forum website: http://ec.europa.eu/odr