Consumer Dispute Resolution Offices
Out of court dispute resolution in conflicts between consumers and businesses is an important alternative to legal action.
Dispute Resolution Offices in Austria
Directive 2013/11/EU on the alternative resolution of consumer rights disputes was implemented in Austria via the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act (Sag, Federal Law Gazette I no. 105/2015). Since 9 January 2016 there has been an alternative dispute resolution office available in Austria for almost every dispute resulting from a contract between a consumer and a business. For further information please see a special brochure (in German) which you can download or order from the Brochure Service.
There are a total of eight recognised dispute resolution offices which are responsible for different fields. Some of them already existed previously, such as those in the areas of energy, telecommunications, passenger rights and the post office. These eight recognised dispute resolution offices are characterised by the guarantees laid down in the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, such as independence, transparency and effectiveness. As part of the AStG, a new ‘fallback dispute resolution office’ (conciliation for consumer transactions) was created.
Outside this system, other mostly regional dispute resolution offices exist in some fields, such as matters relating to chimney sweeps. These are, however, not subject to the statutory requirements of the AStG.
A list of the offices and their contact details is available from the Consumer Portal.
New Platform for Online Disputes
Since 15 February 2016 there has additionally been a platform of the European Commission, via which consumers can also apply for dispute resolution. The so-called ODR platform can, however, only be used if your problem as a consumer results from a contract which was concluded online.
How does the ODR platform work?
You can enter via the ODR area of the website of the der European Commission.
First you fill in the online complaints form. This is then sent to the company in question, which proposes a dispute resolution office. If you agree to the proposal, the complaint is forwarded to the relevant office, which initiates the conciliation procedure. The procedure may only last for a maximum of 90 days from the receipt of all relevant documents by the dispute resolution office.
If there are problems (e.g. with the submission of the complaint), you can, as a consumer in Austria, turn to the Austrian branch of the European Consumer Centre (EVZ), which acts as a contact point for online dispute resolution. Further information on the new ODR platform is available from the website of the EVZ.
Report of the Federal Ministry for the Years 2016/2017
The Ministry of Social Affairs is the main contact point, and according to Art. 27 of the ADR Directive (Section 27 AStG) it is obliged to create a report for the European Commission on the development and function of alternative dispute resolution offices in accordance with Art 20/6, and to publish it.
This report (2016/2017, in German) contains:
- an overview of the dispute resolution system in Austria (responsibilities of the eight dispute resolution offices, their functioning and development on the basis of numbers of cases in the years 2016/2017);
- the description of tried and tested procedures, and
- a description of deficits (supported by statistics).
No figures for the individual offices are shown here. However, if you are interested you can view this data in the annual reports of the dispute resolution offices on their websites.
- A total of 12,000 consumers contacted a dispute resolution office with a consumer complaint in the years 2016 and 2017.
- In 68 percent of cases in which companies participated, an agreement was achieved.
- The statutory maximum duration of proceedings (90 days) was clearly undercut (an average of 40 days).
Further details can be obtained from the bi-annual report (in German).