What is ADR?
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an out of court mechanism for the settlement of disputes with the assistance of an impartial dispute resolution body. The use of ADR for the settlement of consumer disputes is easier, faster and less expensive than going to court.
Across the EU redress through ADR is provided through a number of Alternative Dispute Resolution entities. These entities handle consumer complaints in specific market sectors. They provide the specialised support and assistance consumers need to effectively resolve disputes with traders or service providers without the need to take their case to court. ADR may be used for both domestic and cross-border disputes with regards to the contractual obligations of consumers and traders resulting from sales contracts or service contracts. The main function of the ADR entity is to bring the conflicting parties together with the aim of facilitating an amicable solution.
What are the benefits of ADR for Traders?
Submitting disputes to ADR is usually voluntary and at the discretion of the parties to the dispute. However, it is worth to consider the advantages that this style of dispute resolution has on economic operators. Some of the main advantages are:
ADR procedures are less formal and lengthy than Court procedures and can be completed at the convenience of the parties to the dispute. This allows traders to save up on time to continue with the business operations.
Depending on the type of ADR scheme chosen for the dispute, the costs involved to settle the dispute can be significantly less than for legal procedures.
Confidentiality is another advantage, since as opposed to legal procedures most ADR schemes are conducted in private.
The outcome of the procedure in some ADR schemes is reached on agreement by both parties rather than it being imposed on the parties by an adjudicator. Thus ADR is more flexible in terms of the result that is achieved through the mediation, which can be reached upon by the parties on the basis of what they consider is fair in the situation, thus avoiding unnecessary confrontation.
The MCCAA Alternative Dispute Resolution System
In Malta the Complaints and Conciliation Directorate (CCD) within the Office for Consumer Affairs handles complaints and acts as the residual ADR entity in cases where there are no sector specific ADR entities. This ensures that consumers have full ADR coverage and thus access to out-of-court settlement, regardless the nature of their purchase and regardless from where the purchase was made.
As an ADR entity the CCD addresses both domestic and cross-border disputes concerning contractual obligations resulting from sales contracts or service contracts between a trader established in the European Union and a consumer resident in the EU. The Directorate intervenes to bring the parties together with the aim of facilitating or proposing a solution.
For a case to be submitted to the ADR procedure both parties have to agree to settle their dispute through ADR and the outcome of the procedure is binding upon agreement by the parties.
How does the MCCAA ADR System Work?
The ADR process starts once the consumer or his representative registers the claim with the Office for Consumer Affairs. Following the registration of the claim, the economic operator is notified and is asked to confirm participation in the ADR process within 10 working days. Following this confirmation, and successful registration of all participants, an ADR officer who is a qualified lawyer with more than 5 years’ experience is assigned to the case to start the ADR.
The ADR Officer will analyse the claim to ensure that the dispute fall within the remit of the CCD and that all the necessary documentation is in place. At this stage the ADR Officer may require the parties to submit further information.
Once the ADR Officer has completed with evaluating the case and all the relevant documentation is received, a date for the first ADR session will be communicated to the parties. During the process, the parties will be allowed sufficient time to put forward their submissions including any additional documents or expert opinions if these are required.
The ADR officer will record the conclusions of each ADR session and will notify the parties about the next session if required, allowing sufficient time for the parties to bring further arguments, documents or expert opinions relevant to the claim. There is no limit on the number of ADR sessions that can be held.
Once the parties inform the ADR Officer that they do not have further submissions to make, the ADR Officer will proceed to formulate the solution to the dispute by compiling a report. The ADR report is then submitted to the parties, giving them a period of not less than 3 days to forward their written consent to the proposed solution. The dispute is concluded once the parties inform the ADR Officer on whether or not they agree to the proposed solution.
The ADR procedure is free of charge and can be conducted in either English or Maltese. At any point during the ADR process, the parties may opt to appoint a representative. The physical presence of the parties, or their representatives, during the ADR sessions is usually required. The procedure has a time limit of 90 days which can be extended in complex cases.
Detailed information about the MCCAA Alternative Dispute Resolution System can be found through this Guide
Disputes can be submitted to the MCCAA ADR scheme through the dedicated website www.adr.mccaa.org.mt. This is an online tool which facilitates for the registration and submission of disputes. The online tool allows also for users to use their e-ID account or else they can opt to create an account specifically for this system. The website also contains a step-by-step guide on how a dispute can be submitted.
Online Dispute Resolution
In order to facilitate the ADR process, the European Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform links all National ADR entities registered across the EU. Consumers will be able to send their complaint directly to the trader via the ODR platform and reach an agreement on the ADR entity that will handle the dispute.
This platform is available in all the official languages of the EU and it serves as a single point of entry for consumers and traders seeking to settle disputes emerging from online transactions irrespective of where the contract was concluded. There is a contact point in every Member State to provide support to the users of the Platform and to assist in the submission of the complaints through the Platform. The European Consumer Centre Malta is the designated contact point in Malta.
More information about the Online Dispute Resolution Platform https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr/main/?event=main.home.howitworks