Having A Dispute Regarding An Online Purchase? File A Complaint With The European Union

Having A Dispute Regarding An Online Purchase? File A Complaint With The European Union

by Gary Oldwood on 28 August 2017 · 1147 views

E-commerce has become quite widespread in the past few years, and we wouldn’t exaggerate if we assumed that in a few years it may well replace the traditional way of shopping. However, a lot of things can go wrong during an online transaction, so if you have a problem with your online shopping, the European Union can give you the solution.

What kind of problems could appear during online shopping?

Shopping online involves two sides: the merchant and the consumer. Either of the two sides may consider that the transaction was unfair at his expense for various different reasons.

From the consumer's point of view, it is possible that he may have received a damaged product, the packaging was already open, the product was different from what was ordered, and so on. If the merchant refuses to send the correct product or give a refund after communicating with the consumer, then the consumer has every right to file a complaint.

The merchant may also have problems with a consumer as well. He may believe that the buyer damaged the product while opening it, or that the product description was 100% accurate and the consumer bought it at his own risk.

Whatever the problem might be, one can try to solve it online, without the intervention of the court, which can take years to settle the case. How? With the help of the European Online Dispute Resolution.

What is Online Dispute Resolution?

The European Union created a website from which it provides assistance to consumers and traders who are not satisfied with their transactions. Through this site, one party may file a complaint against the other regarding goods and services purchased exclusively via the internet. This service applies to all EU countries except Spain and Romania.

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In addition, it should be noted that it is not necessary for the purchase to originate from the country where you live, as long as it is within the EU. If, for example, you live in Austria and have a problem with a purchase from Germany (online, of course), you can easily make a complaint through the online dispute resolution.

The above applies if the complainant is a consumer. For merchants, the service does not apply to all countries. In this case, the buyer should live in Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, or Belgium.

Who will review my complaint?

In essence, the website provides an alternative dispute resolution for resolving your dispute with the seller/buyer. And by "alternative dispute resolution" we mean all solutions to a dispute that do not involve the court.

More specifically, the service allows you to choose a dispute resolution body that will be responsible for handling your complaint. For example, Sweden has 7 available dispute resolution bodies.

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In other words, you ask a neutral body to intervene and act as an intermediary between the two sides of the transaction. The intervention may involve proposing solutions, imposing a solution, or discussing the dispute.

In any case, you will avoid resorting to the court, which would certainly have a higher cost, and would require a lot more time until the matter is settled.

Under what laws will the dispute be resolved?

Dispute resolution bodies have been audited to meet European Union standards. You can find a detailed list of all available service providers in this page.

In addition, the online dispute resolution site was created in accordance with specific EU legislation. In this link you can find the Alternative Dispute Resolution directive, and here you can read the regulation on the online dispute resolution for consumer disputes.

Creating an account in the website

If you had a problem with an online purchase, you don’t need to register in order to file the complaint. However, if the trader agrees to proceed with the process, you will have to sign up. This is necessary in order for your details to be verified.

By registering you will also be able to monitor the progress of the complaint through your account. So, it’s recommended that you create an account from the beginning, since you’re going to need it anyway at some point.

To do this, visit this page and fill in your details. Make sure that they are your real details.

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Once you’re done, type the CAPTCHA that you see in the image at the bottom of the page, check the box below it, and click on Create Account.

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So open your email inbox and follow the link within the email that you received. In the page that you will be redirected to, enter the password that you want to use.

How to file a complaint if I have a problem with a purchase?

First of all, let’s assume that you were “cheated/scammed” in a recent online transaction.

Depending on the case, click on the box that represents you.

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If I’m a consumer

After selecting the consumer box, you will be asked answer three simple Yes/No questions.

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In order to proceed further, the first two questions should be Yes. In the third question you are given the option to file the complaint on behalf of a third party.

Then you should enter as many details of the trader that you know. You use the search feature too, in case the merchant is already listed on the page's catalog.

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In the next step you are asked to fill in information regarding the purchase, such as the type of purchased product, date of transaction, cost, etc.

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A little further below, you will have to choose the reason for the complaint, and clarify what you are asking from the merchant. If you do not find the reason that you want from the list, select Other.

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Finally, you can optionally attach any documents that you may have (such as proof of purchase), answer the given questions, and proceed to the final step.

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In there, you enter your details and submit the complaint.

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Unfortunately, we were not able to go any further for the guide’s needs, as we did not have any real dispute to resolve. We assume that after that step you will be informed by email of the successful submission, as well as the progress of the complaint.

If I’m a trader

The process is similar in this case as well. By choosing the Merchant option in the first page, you are then asked three simple questions that you should answer. The answer to all of them should be Yes, if you wish to proceed.

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As we mentioned previously, traders have the “constraint” that the consumer should be a resident of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, or Poland. If this is not the case, then unfortunately you cannot complain about the problem you are facing.

So, we will not go further into the process for merchants, since the available countries are quite limited.

What happens next?

The website states that the person against whom the complaint was filed has 10 days to respond. If he does not respond, then you should need to contact a counselor, as we will outline below.

However, if one responds and agrees to participate in the process, then one or more available resolution bodies will be proposed for the resolution procedure. So you can reject or accept these bodies.

You will then be given a period of 30 days from the time of filing of the complaint, in order to reach an agreement with the merchant.

Although the complaint from the EU page is totally free of charge, the selected entity may request a fee to settle the complaint. The fee depends on the body that you chose, and although you can find out the fee for each one, you cannot know which body will be chosen for your case in the end.

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Finally, the resolution dispute body will have to decide within 90 days to resolve the problem with the purchase.

Where can I find more information?

If you have any questions, take a look at the frequently asked questions.

If you have problems regarding the submission of the complaint, or if you have other questions regarding the procedures, you can contact the national contact point. One of the available consultants will further explain how the website works. In addition, he will help you file the complaint, advise you on which documents you need to attach, and give you immediate information about your consumer (or merchant) rights.

Every EU country has its respective contact points. So, depending on your country of residence, visit this link and select your country from the drop-down menu located at the top right. Then you can communicate with the national contact point by phone or email.

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Have you ever had any unpleasant online purchase from the EU? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

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