EU Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) for E-commerce Stores

Despite your best efforts, disputes with customers over the quality, functionality, or delivery of the items they purchased from your company may arise. You can always address these disputes through your company's in-house customer care department.

However, since your business may have to listen to tens if not hundreds of concerns of various customers, you will have to commit significant time and resources to resolve these disputes.

This may be mitigated if you use the EU Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform. The ODR is a standardized and impartial platform where your consumers can raise concerns regarding any products they purchase from you. Addressing your customers' complaints through the ODR process allows for quick and cost-effective dispute resolution while demonstrating your company's dedication to customer satisfaction.

Let's look at what the EU Online Dispute Resolution is, its legal basis, whether it's mandatory for your business, and how you can implement it.

What is EU Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)?

The European Union provides its customers with a variety of Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR processes with which they can try to resolve disputes with a company without going into court. One specific type of ADR is Online Dispute Resolution or ODR.

It was launched in 2016 by the European Commission as per Regulation No 524/2013, which describes ODR as a "single point of entry for consumers and traders seeking the out-of-court resolution of disputes."

ODR functions as an internet-based tool for the customers of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, through which they can file a complaint against a cross or same-border company from whom they purchased an item online. This platform will then involve neutral dispute resolution parties as mediators or arbitrators who will oversee and try to resolve the dispute.

Some of the issues customers can address using ODR include:

  • Damaged or faulty items
  • The delivered item was not the same as the one they ordered
  • Issue in billing, invoicing, or delivery
  • Dispute over the warranty of an item

How Does EU Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Work?

Since ODR is neutral, both the customer and the trader can lodge a complaint on this platform against the other party. However, the trader can only file a complaint if their consumer resides in Belgium, Germany, Luxemburg, or Poland.

To access the ODR platform, customers go to the official EU Commissioner website, which will ask them a few questions regarding the nature of their dispute. It will then provide them with ADR processes they can use, including ODR if applicable.

Here's a step-by-step example of how ODR can help streamline dispute resolution:

  1. A customer purchases an item from a trader but they're unsatisfied with the delivered item.
  2. They file the complaint form on the ODR platform by providing all the necessary details regarding the item they purchased. This can be done before or after getting in touch with the business's own customer support.
  3. The ODR notifies the trader regarding the filed complaint and if the trader is willing to talk, the platform will provide both parties with the facility to exchange messages, pictures, and videos so they can communicate effectively and reach an agreement. Both parties can withdraw from the platform at any time.
  4. If a resolution isn't reached within 90 days, the customer can either involve a dispute resolution body of their choice from a list of entities, go with another ADR process, or take legal action against the trader. A dispute resolution body can also be involved at any point during the negotiation by either party.
  5. The dispute resolution body tries to assess the cases of both parties impartially and tries to mediate or arbitrate the solution within a time frame of 30 additional days.

Is EU Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Required?

Yes, any business that's based in Europe and sells products online, must provide their customers with a link to the official ODR platform on their website and inform users of ODR as an alternate form of dispute resolution.

The designated body handling the ODR platform is the Competitions and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), and the enforcement of ODR is handled exclusively by the European Commission.

The EU Regulation No. 524/2013 defines no clear penalty for infringement of its clauses. However, the penalty for a business going against this regulation shall be decided collectively by the European Union states. The penalty shall be "effective, proportionate, and dissuasive."

Who Must Have EU Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)?

All online traders that operate in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, must comply with the ODR regulations on their websites.

The European Commission defines a trader as "any natural person, or any legal person irrespective of whether privately or publicly owned, who is acting, including through any person acting in his name or on his behalf, for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession."

There are no obligations on consumers to use ODR for their disputes, and while its use is encouraged, they should only do so if they choose to.

How to Make Your Business Compliant with EU Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Regulations?

If you're a trader with a business that operates in the EU states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, you'll need to make some additions to your website. Let's see how you can comply with the European Commission's requirements.

Register Your Business on the ODR Platform

When a customer files a complaint against a business, they have to share details regarding this business with the platform. These details include:

  • Business's name
  • Business's website
  • The country in which the business is based in
  • The email address with which the business is registered with the ODR platform
  • Business address (optional)

In case one of your customers has concerns regarding a product and tries to use the ODR platform, they won't be able to locate your company's name when entering its details unless you've registered your company on the platform.

To do this, you'll have to create an EU login first, then proceed to register your company into the ODR platform.

Provide a Link to the ODR Platform on Your Website

The EU Regulation No 524/2013 explicitly states that all European-based traders must inform their consumers about the ODR platform and provide a link to access it on their websites. This can be done on a separate customer support webpage of your website which should ideally be easily accessible from your website's footer.

Microsoft does this very well by talking about what ODR is, what it means for its customers, and how they can use it to file a complaint. It also mentions the email address the customer must use when lodging a complaint:

Microsoft EU ODR page

Another great example of this is from Roger Vivier, the popular shoe and handbag store:

Roger Vivier ODR page

Address Customer Complaints on ODR

While there is no obligation to show up in case of a complaint against your business, it's highly recommended that you do so to uphold the image of your business.

Amicably resolving disputes with your customers will be highly beneficial in the long run and will help you avoid potential legal implications that unsatisfied customers might take.


The European Commission launched the Online Dispute Resolution or ODR platform in 2016, and it's one of the types of Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR processes.

ODR is an entirely online platform that residents of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway can use as an alternative to pursuing disputes using the courts and the law. It's suitable for any product they receive from a trader online.

Through the ODR, a customer can directly communicate with a representative of the company they have a complaint against, under the supervision of a dispute resolution body if required. The ODR allows both parties to share messages, images, and documents and keeps a record of all communications. It even allows for tackling cross-border disputes within the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

This platform has many benefits for both the customers and traders, including:

  • It tries to be fair and impartial
  • It's free to use and avoids legal fees
  • Can handle cross-border disputes
  • Disputes are resolved much quicker than traditional courts

While the ODR itself has no legal authority and is only useful if both parties are willing to communicate, a party can involve a dispute resolution body to mediate or arbitrate the outcome of the resolution, which shall be legally binding.

The EU Regulation No 524/2013, which lays down the provisions regarding the ODR platform mandates all traders based in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway to mention this platform on their website and provide a link to it on an easy-to-access webpage.

In addition to providing the link to it, a business must also register itself on the ODR platform if it wants its customers to locate and file a concern against it.