The European Parliament adopted, in plenary session on 12 March, the draft Directive on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and the draft Regulation setting up an online dispute resolution (ODR) platform. These measures still have to be approved formally by the Council and should be fully operational from 1 January 2016.
The new Directive obliges Member States to guarantee the existence of out-of-court bodies with competence for contractual disputes between consumers and traders, in all economic sectors except for health and education. It sets out conditions of access to such schemes and provisions to ensure mediators are impartial. The text states that the use of ADR should "preferably" be free for consumers, and where this is not the case it should "not exceed a symbolic sum". Disputes must normally be resolved within 90 days.
The new Regulation concerns online disputes, regardless of the seller's location in the EU. It empowers the Commission to set up an online platform connecting all national ADR bodies. This single point of entry, accessible via the Your Europe portal, will provide shoppers with a standard complaint form that they can complete in their own language.
The European notariat warmly welcomes the new legislation to introduce effective and efficient systems of alternative dispute resolution. As legal professionals who are “trusted third parties”, notaries play an important part in alternative dispute resolution in several areas. This role falls perfectly within the scope of notaries’ duties in the administration of preventive justice.
For these reasons, in the future the Notaries of Europe intend to play a more significant role in the functioning of existing and future ADR bodies at Member State level and in the resolution of specific disputes in certain areas that these ADR bodies will be responsible for, such as real estate sales and legal advice.