Enforceable rights to resolve consumer cross-border disputes by Alternative Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution moved a little closer on 12 March 2013 when the European Parliament approved the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Directive and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Regulation.

The Consumer ADR Directive, which will be effective from mid-2015, will require the Member State to ensure that an ADR procedure is available for all contractual disputes in every market sector except health and education. ADR entities will have to meet certain quality requirements so that they are effective, fair, independent and transparent. It is anticipated that in the UK this will involve use of the existing ADR providers who are willing to undertake the work. The Directive also will require traders to inform consumers about ADR both at the time of a purchase and when a problem arises.

The Regulation on Consumer ODR is part of the European Digital Agenda and will involve the creation by the Commission of an online platform to link all the national ADR entities to be available by the end of 2015.  It is intended for consumer disputes arising from online transactions and will be free of charge to consumers. It will also operate in all official EU languages.

The Council vote is expected on 22nd April 2013.