Citation suggestion: Vilalta, AE (2019) Reputational Feedback Systems and Consumer Rights: Improving the European Online Redress System. International Journal of Online Dispute Resolution, vol. 1/2019 (forthcoming)
The European Union single market needs to tackle an outstanding issue to boost competitiveness and growth: a trust-based redress framework that ensures the effectiveness of consumers’ rights. The current disparities among dispute resolution mechanisms, added to the fact that, in practice, many do not guarantee participation and enforceability, are serious obstacles to this goal.
Trust and the integration of certain dispute avoidance tools added to the regulation of some common enforcement mechanisms are key issues in the field of consumer protection. The goal of this article is to offer some insights within the context of the European Union legislative proposals aimed at improving the current redress system.
The article identifies some of the existing efficient means to secure the effectiveness of consumers’ rights and the satisfaction of their needs, which is a pending issue in conflict resolution as is prevalent in the European Union. Trustmarks, rating mechanisms, blacklists and escrow accounts have become essential dispute avoidance tools. Consumers place their trust in products, services and businesses that are familiar to them or about which they have accurate information gathered from other consumers’ degree of satisfaction in relation to their past purchases of similar products or services.
Beyond the protection offered by regulations, consumers place more trust in businesses that have been scored by other consumers, appear capable of meeting their needs and resolve problems quickly and efficiently. These mechanisms allow potential purchasers to familiarize themselves with traders, products or services and learn to trust them.
The article shows the value, in the long run, of strengthening consumers power («prosumers»). Rating systems, blackisting and scrow accounts have been incorporated into the market very successfully on a massive scale since they meet users’ needs for accurate information. They are becoming, alongside blockchain technology, the driving forces behind the new digital economy.
The attractiveness of this approach is that it provides a comprehensive view of dispute resolution, not falling into the trap of focusing on one piece of the jigsaw, disregarding other important and interconnected tools.