1. What is the online dispute resolution platform and how does it work?
The European Commission has established a webpage where consumers can register, and after that they have the possibility to resolve their disputes related to online shopping through this webpage by filling in an online form, and they can avoid court action procedure. Thus consumers are able to exercise their rights without being hindered by (for example) the distance.
9th January 2016 is the latest date for all European Union member states to make the platform available to the consumers.
2. In what kind of disputes can I use the online dispute resolution platform?
The online dispute resolution platform is established to solve cross-border consumer disputes related to online sales or service contracts. I.e. if a consumer, who has a place of residence in the European Union, buys a product or orders a service on the internet and a dispute is arisen from this contractual relationship between him and the trader who has premises in another member state, the online dispute resolution platform can be used to solve the situation (in some of the member states the procedure of the platform may be used by parties from the same country).
For instance, if a Hungarian consumer bought something from a webshop of a German trader, or vice versa, if a consumer with a German place of residence ordered something from a Hungarian webshop and a dispute arose from this purchase.
3. What is an online sales contract?
Such a sales contract where the trader, or the trader’s intermediary, has offered goods on a website or by other electronic means and the consumer has ordered such goods on that website or by other electronic means. This includes all the purchases from webshops as well as if someone uses mobile application for shopping. If both goods and services included in a contract, it also falls into this category.
4. What is an online service contract?
Such a service contract where the trader, or the trader’s intermediary, has offered services on a website or by other electronic means and the consumer has ordered such service or services on that website or by other electronic means.
This can be for instance, if a consumer registers to a real estate advertisement webpage where he has to pay for the service.
5. Who is a consumer?
According to EU regulation on online dispute resolution (ODR regulation), any natural person who is buying goods or services for purposes which are outside his trade, business, craft or profession.
For instance, if a hairdresser buys a hair dryer that she uses in her salon, she is not considered to be a consumer, but if she buys a television for personal use, she is a consumer regarding this purchase.
6. Who is a trader?
Any natural persons, or any legal person (either privately owned or privately owned), who is offering goods or services, including through any person acting in his name or on his behalf, for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, for example a sole trader or any kind of companies regardless of their form.
7. What can I gain with this procedure?
If a consumer cannot solve the dispute arising from an online sales or service contract directly with the trader, the dispute still can be solved through the platform with the alternative dispute resolution entities. The procedure is free of charge or much cheaper and faster than a court action. The procedure of the Hungarian forum can end with a settlement between the parties that has binding force. If the parties cannot reach a settlement, the forum is entitled to issue obligatory decision if the trader committed itself to the decision of the forum which has also binding force. If there is no settlement and no obligatory decision at the end of the procedure, the forum issues a recommendation which has no binding force but if the trader does not fulfill the recommendation, the arbitration board is entitled to publish the particulars of the trader, the description of the case (without the particulars of the consumer) and the recommendation after 60 days of its non-fulfillment.
8. How can I reach the online dispute resolution platform?
The link of the online dispute resolution platform is available from several web pages. Traders established within the European Union engaging in online sales or service contracts and online marketplaces established within the EU shall provide a link on their websites that leads the consumers to the online dispute resolution platform. This link shall be easily accessible. If the contract was concluded in e-mail, the trader’s e-mail about the offer must contain this link. Besides that the link is also can be found on the homepage of the Arbitration Board of Budapest and also on the homepage of the Hungarian member of the European Consumer Centres Network, as well as on the informant pages of the European Union (for instance on the ’Your Europe’ portal: http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/index_en.htm).
9. I have never participated in a procedure like this before. Where can I inquire about the procedural rules or consumer rights?
Each member state of the European Union, so also Hungary shall designate and operate an online dispute resolution contact point that shall host at least two online dispute resolution advisors who help the parties concerned by a dispute, if they have any questions related to the procedure. The advisors answer the questions about the submission of the request or the documents that shall be attached. They also inform the parties about the operation of the platform or the procedural rules of the alternative dispute resolution entity. Besides that the online dispute resolution contact point also provides general information about the consumer rights that can be exercised in their home country. In Hungary, the Arbitration Board of Budapest fulfills these tasks. Contact:
Hungary, 1016 Budapest, Krisztina krt. 99. III. em. 310.
Postal address: 1253 Budapest, Pf.: 10.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: 06 (1) 488 21 86
Phone: 06 (1) 488 21 31
10. Who can submit a claim and how?
In Hungary the arbitration in consumer cases can only be launched by the request of the consumer. In order to submit a claim to the online dispute resolution platform, the complainant party shall completely fill in an electronic complaint form.
11. In what languages can I submit a claim?
Consumers can submit their complaints in all official EU languages through the online dispute resolution platform. Additionally, the platform uses a translator to the necessary translations, so consumers cannot have any problem for the reason that they do not speak the language of that country where the trader has premises.
12. What information do I have to provide when I submit a complaint?
Consumers shall provide the following information on the electronic complaint form:
– The name, geographical address and e-mail address of the consumer (if he has a representative, the representative’s name, geographical address and e-mail address as well)
– The name, geographical address and e-mail address of the trader (if he has a representative, the representative’s name, geographical address and e-mail address as well)
– The language or languages of the consumer or his representative
– The language or languages of the respondent party, if known
– The type of good or service to which the complaint relates
– Whether the good or service was offered by the trader and ordered by the consumer on a website or by other electronic means.
– The price of the good or service purchased
– The date on which the consumer purchased the good or service
– Whether the consumer has made direct contact with the trader
– Whether the dispute is being or has previously been considered by an alternative dispute resolution entity or by a court
– The type of the complaint
– The description of the complaint
– If known, the alternative dispute resolution entities the trader is obliged to or has committed to use.
13. Shall I attach documents to my request?
It is worth attaching all the documents that prove the facts claimed in the request. These can be – non-exhaustively – depending on the type of the contract and the complaint: the sales or service contract, the warranty, the e-mailing or correspondence with the trader or photos. Complainant has several opportunities to attach these documents, for example they can upload scanned documents, photos (e.g. in jpg. format) or if they have e.g. word documents of pdf (for example an invoice sent in e-mail), these can be also uploaded to the platform. This can make the procedure faster because there will be no need for providing the deficient documents during the procedure of the alternative dispute resolution entity.
14. What happens if my complaint is not completely filled in?
If the complaint form has not been fully completed, the consumer will be warned that the complaint cannot be processed further, unless the missing information is provided.
15. What happens if I would like to modify my complaint?
Consumers are able to save the draft of the electronic complaint form on the online dispute resolution platform. This draft is accessible and editable by the consumer prior to the submission of the complete electronic complaint form.
16. Do I have anything to do before I use the alternative dispute resolution platform?
At first, consumers should attempt to resolve the dispute directly with the trader in any case because the alternative dispute resolution entities can set this condition in their procedural rules. Consumers also have to be able to prove this attempt. (In case of online disputes, e-mailing is the most obvious solution for contacting the trader, but it is also possible by other means, e.g. by post, fax etc.) The procedural rules of the Arbitration Board of Budapest contain this preliminary rule. Regarding the procedural rules of alternative dispute resolution entities in other member states, you can inquire at the online dispute resolution contact points of the concerned member state.
17. What can be an alternative dispute resolution entity?
Any organization or body – however named – which is established on a durable basis and offers the resolution of a dispute through an alternative dispute resolution procedure (that is not a court action procedure) and that is listed in the register of the authorities. In Hungary, the arbitration boards are responsible to proceed in disputes between a consumer and a trader.
18. How does my request got in front of the alternative dispute resolution entity that actually proceeds? Do I have any further role related to this?
Following the receipt of the request, the online dispute resolution platform forwards it to the respondent party without delay. After that the affected parties have to agree on the alternative dispute resolution entity that will proceed in their case. The platform informs the parties about the entities that have the competence to proceed. As soon as the parties agree, the online dispute resolution platform forwards the request to this entity. If the parties fail to agree within 30 days, or the platform cannot identify an alternative dispute resolution entity that has the competence to proceed, the request cannot be processed further. In Hungary, the Arbitration Board of Budapest has exclusive competence. According to its procedural rules, the trader cannot refuse the procedure; moreover traders are obliged to cooperate during the procedure.
19. How does the platform determine the alternative dispute resolution entity?
The platform determines the alternative dispute resolution entities that have scope of authority and competence based on the place of habitation/place of residence provided in the complaint and based on the sector related to the debate. Although in Hungary, there is only one competent alternative dispute resolution entity – the Arbitration Board of Budapest – in online cross-border consumer cases but other EU member states may have different system. For instance, in Germany there are separate forums in the field of vehicle repair, cleaning of textiles and other trades (building trade, radio and television etc.), that is why it is important to provide the above data to the platform.
20. Which body has the competence to proceed in online cross-border consumer cases in Hungary?
In Hungary the Arbitration Board of Budapest has exclusive competence to act in online cross-border disputes related to sales or service contract concluded by a consumer and a trader.
21. Does the procedure have any expense?
The procedure of the Arbitration Board of Budapest that has exclusive competence in Hungary is free of charge. If you take into consideration that you agree with the trader on an alternative dispute resolution entity of another member state, consult with the alternative dispute resolution contact point of that country about this issue anyway. All in all, consumers can only be obliged to pay nominal fee but this fee can be 50-100 Euros or more in some countries. As long as an alternative dispute resolution entity receives a complaint, it informs the parties of its procedural rules and, if applicable, of the costs of the dispute resolution procedure but it is worth inquiring about the costs before choosing an alternative dispute resolution entity.
22. What should I do if my case is got in front of an alternative dispute resolution forum of another member state for some reason and I do not speak the official language of that country?
Consumers do not have any special task in this kind of cases because the online dispute resolution platform provides the necessary translations during the procedure. Consumers can not have any problem for this reason.
23. Is it obligatory to appear personally during the procedure?
No, the procedure is usually based on written documents in this kind of cases. Personal appearance can be obligatory only if the legal rules relating to the forum include this possibility and the parties also agree. The forum is only able to oblige the parties to appear personally, if the procedural rules contain this possibility and both parties agree.
24. How long does the procedure take?
The outcome of the procedure has to be made available within a period of 90 days from the day on which the alternative dispute resolution entity received the completely filled request form. This period cannot be longer in any member state of the European Union.
25. What other possibilities do I have if my dispute fails to be resolved during the online dispute resolution procedure?
Consumers who participate in the online dispute resolution procedure will not be deprived of their right to take other legal measures (such as European payment order procedure, or court action) to enforce their claims if the online dispute resolution procedure does not solve the dispute.
For instance, consumers have the possibility to launch European order for payment procedure in a court by filling in a standardized form. If the form has no deficiency, the court issues the payment order within 30 days. After that the obligor has 30 days to dispute the demand, otherwise it becomes executable. If he disputes the demand, the procedure continues as a court action. Consumers also can choose the court action at the first place as well which can be launched with a statement of claim. The online dispute resolution contact points provide information to the consumer about these opportunities.