In order to ensure broad consumer awareness of the existence of the ODR platform, according to the first sentence of Article 14 of the ODR Regulation, traders and online marketplaces shall provide on their websites an electronic link to the ODR platform (http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr). This obligation applies irrespective of whether the traders actually consider entering into an out-of-court dispute resolution. Pursuant to Article 14, paragraph 1, sentence 3 of the ODR Regulation, traders are also obliged to state their email addresses. There are no particular requirements as to the specific positioning and/or the contextual framework of the information being made available. Article 14, paragraph 1, sentence 2 of the Regulation requires the link to be easily accessible for consumers. As similar requirements apply to the section of websites giving the mandatory publication details (“Impressum”), in practice it would be relatively simple to implement the information requirements in this (easily accessible) section which has to state the provider’s email address anyway. One should also consider the Commission’s delay in establishing the ODR platform as well as the fact that the latter is not operational yet. The platform is expected to become functional on 15 February 2016. According to the Regulation, this delay does not affect the general information requirements.
In the future, further information requirements may ensue from Article 14, paragraph 2 of the ODR Regulation. However, this provision affects only traders which are committed or obliged to use an ADR entity to resolve disputes with consumers, unlike Article 14, paragraph 1 of the Regulation. As Directive 2013/11/EU has not been implemented in Germany at the time of writing, despite being required by the EU law (discussed in more detail below), and as no ADR entities have been put in place under the Consumer Dispute Resolution Act, Article 14, paragraph 2 is, in practice, of no importance in Germany for now. However it may follow, that traders will be obliged under this provision to further inform consumers about the possibility of using the ODR platform for resolving their disputes. In case the offer is made by email, traders shall provide an electronic link to the ODR platform in that email as well. In addition, the information shall also be included in the general terms and conditions used by the trader.
For the sake of completeness, it is notable that the Consumer Dispute Resolution Act will soon impose further obligations to supply information. Under Section 36 VSBG, traders must state on their websites and in their general terms and conditions whether they are willing or obliged to take part in dispute resolution processes. In case they do, the traders must indicate the competent ADR entity, including its address and website, and must make a statement to the effect that they will participate in a dispute resolution procedure before this consumer dispute resolution entity. Section 37 VSBG includes further information requirements pertaining to the time after a dispute has arisen. Traders must provide information regarding the competent ADR entity, once again including its address and website, and state if they are willing to participate in dispute resolution proceedings. Because the Consumer Dispute Resolution Act was only adopted by the German Parliament in December 2015 and has not yet been approved by the Federal Council (Bundesrat) as required by law, for now there is no urgent need for action in this respect.