Czech Republic and the EU: resolving unrecognised warranty claims on-line?
Since this February, a system of the out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes has been functioning in the Czech Republic, which was brought, among others, by an amendment to the Consumer Protection Act. This system is synthetically linked with a new European online platform for resolving consumer disputes concerning goods and services purchased on the Internet. That also means that from this year disputes between traders and consumers may be resolved out of court also in the case of cross-border transactions.
Based on the ODR Regulation (ODR-Online Dispute Resolution), an interactive website was made available to consumers for non-judicial resolution of disputes arising from on-line transactions. A consumer who is a resident of one of the Member States of the European Union and purchased goods or services on the Internet from a trader or service provider established in any (other) EU state, can now raise complaints or warranty claims directly with the trader using the above platform. Unless the two parties reach an amicable solution directly, either of them may suggest an impartial dispute settlement body that may also be searched within the online platform. Dispute resolution bodies are determined by individual Member States. In the Czech Republic, such body is generally the Czech Trade Inspection Authority, in the telecommunications area the Czech Telecommunications Office, in the energy sector the Energy Regulatory Office, and for financial services, the Financial Arbiter. Such impartial bodies should assist in mediating an agreement, and settling a dispute between the parties involved.
The introduction of the platform imposed certain duties on traders running their business on the Internet. Such traders' websites or e-mail messages (if the offer has been made by e-mail) and business terms and conditions must contain a link/reference to the ODR platform, including the information about the existence of the platform and the possibility to use it for resolving disputes; such link/reference must be easily accessible. Similarly, traders have to always state their e-mail address.
The ODR platform is available in all of the 23 official EU languages, and should thus provide convenient and cost-effective option for handling consumer disputes. It also brings more confidence to consumers when they are shopping abroad, and could open new markets to traders. Although the platform was to be fully operational since mid-February this year, according to available information as of this date, eleven EU member states have not yet identified the body responsible for settling disputes. So it is not possible to make a full use of the platform in these “belated” countries.