Prospects of Legal Regulation of Online Consumer Dispute Proceedings

 
Код статьиS0024059-4-1
DOI10.18254/S278229070024059-0
Тип публикации Статья
Статус публикации Опубликовано
Авторы
Аффилиация: Institute of Legislationand Comparative Law under the Government of the Russian Federation, State Academic University for the Humanities
Адрес: Российская Федерация
Название журналаLaw & Digital Technologies
ВыпускТом 2 №2
Страницы26-35
Аннотация

The rapid expansion of cross-border e-commerce, especially in a pandemic environment, has fundamentally changed the role of both international and national online marketplaces. However, e-commerce has its shortcomings and cases of violation of consumer rights, with buying goods online - in various Internet stores and marketplaces/commodity aggregators, not being an exception. In this regard, the initiatives for the development of legal regulation, aimed at empowering consumers to protect their rights become essential. In these circumstances, it is important to properly assess the mechanism of online dispute resolution used by online marketplaces to identify the prospects of forming a legal framework for such proceedings not only to improve consumer protection but also to develop extrajudicial ways of resolving consumer disputes, which will contribute to relieving the state courts of resolving minor disputes. This is the subject discussed in the present article.

Ключевые словаonline dispute resolution, online platforms, consumer disputes
Получено15.01.2023
Дата публикации03.02.2023
Кол-во символов39581
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INTRODUCTION

E-commerce, while being convenient for most consumers, has its drawbacks. Purchasing goods on electronic trading platforms often leads to a dispute, usually too insignificant for the consumer to seek protection in a state court. This, unfortunately, is sometimes used by unscrupulous sellers.

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To settle such disputes out of court, many product aggregators and marketplaces create special mechanisms for resolving consumer disputes within their platforms (hereinafter - online dispute resolution platforms). It is worth noting that this allows not only to end a conflict between a seller and a buyer but, most importantly, to ensure the return of money paid to the buyer for low-quality goods, the return of goods that do not fit the buyer to the seller with a refund of money paid to the latter, without the involvement of state authorities.

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However, online dispute resolution platforms created by aggregators and marketplaces are not flawless, and their "activity" is not error free. In addition, situations where the consumer or the seller remains dissatisfied with the result of out-of-court dispute resolution, even though to an outside observer this result seems quite logical and fair, can still occur. Consequently, in publications and speeches, the need to improve consumer protection in the sphere of e-commerce is often raised, and it is often accompanied by opinions on the feasibility of exempting state courts from resolving this kind of (minor) disputes.

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In 2018, the Skolkovo Competence Center for the Normative Regulation of the Digital Economy working group, which the author of this article was honored to be a part of, aimed to investigate the issue mentioned above. To form a system of pre-trial settlement of disputes arising in connection with the e-purchasing of goods by consumers online in Russia, it was decided to develop a draft federal law "On Amendments to the Law of the Russian Federation "On Protection of Consumer Rights", to the Federal Law "On Alternative Procedure of Dispute Resolution with the Participation of a Mediator (Mediation Procedure)" to create a legal framework for the development of a system of alternative online dispute resolution mechanisms" (hereinafter - the Draft Law).

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At the early stages of the Draft Law development, it became apparent that the primary task was to protect the Russian buyers (consumers) purchasing goods on the international e-trading platforms, such as AliExpress, e-Bay, Amazon, and others. At the same time, it was planned that the mechanism of alternative dispute resolution, developed under the Draft Law would also be used to protect the rights of the consumers using the Russian online trading platform sand online stores. In other words, the intention was to create a legal mechanism that would ensure the successful online settlement of consumer disputes arising from the purchase of goods on both "domestic" and foreign Internet sites.

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The above stated priority task was set without taking into account the fact that foreign online trading platforms are not subject to Russian law, and disputes arising there are consumer disputes between foreigners located in different jurisdictions. Following this, the Draft Law working tasks have been significantly adjusted (for details of the Draft Law see part 2 of this article).

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At the same time, during the subsequent development of the Draft Law, the procedures and practice of dispute resolution on the online platforms, created by international trading platforms, were taken into consideration as such online dispute resolution is usually an established, effective and constantly improving mechanism.

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The uniqueness of this mechanism is underpinned by the fact that online dispute resolution between foreigners located in different jurisdictions (1) is based on simple procedural rules developed by private parties, (2) is free, (3) and the online platform itself ensures the actual execution of decisions on such disputes.

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Given the above, the framework of this article includes this experience.

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CHARACTERISTICS OF ONLINE SETTLEMENT OF CONSUMER DISPUTES ON ONLINE PLATFORMS OF MARKETPLACES AND AGGREGATORS

Even though the number of consumer disputes arising on online marketplaces is quite significant, they often are identical and the amount of claim usually being low.

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The lack of dispute types diversity made it possible for large trading aggregators and marketplaces to create a special information system (an online dispute resolution platform) on their platforms allowing to process a large number of similar disputes, and to develop algorithms for solving typical disputes, often using artificial intelligence technology, to minimize costs.

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Creating an online dispute resolution system not only makes it easier, faster and cheaper to resolve minor consumer disputes, but also helps to ensure that the reputation of the online marketplace does not suffer from the unscrupulous actions of its users (both buyers and sellers). In addition, it allows to timely track the existing inaccuracies of goods and services description, identify shortcomings and gaps in the regulatory rules, and ensure that goods offered do not violate intellectual property rights.

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9. The European Union. n. d. (a) Formal legal action for consumers. https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/consumers-dispute-resolution/formal-legal-actions/index_en.htm

10. The European Union. n. d. (b) Informal dispute resolution for consumers. European Consumer Centres, https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/consumers-dispute-resolution/informal-dispute-resolution/index_en.htm#shortcut-2-european-consumer-centres.

11. UNCITRAL. 2017. Technical Notes on Online Dispute Resolution. United Nations. New York: 26.

12. The United Nations. n. d. United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law on International Commercial Conciliation. https://www.un.org/ru/documents/decl_conv/conventions/com_conciliation.shtml

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