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Website eyed to help resolve e-commerce problems

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe government will accelerate efforts to launch a website and a framework to help consumers resolve problems related to online shopping and other forms of e-commerce.

Called online dispute resolution (ODR), the framework is aimed at promptly solving problems that could cost consumers tens of thousands of yen.

The government will compile a basic policy on ODR by the end of this fiscal year and aims to bring it into shape from next fiscal year. It will also incorporate the plan into its growth strategy for 2019, which will be finalized in late June.

ODR is an alternative dispute resolution procedure. Using information and communications technology, it allows all processes to be completed online, from filing a complaint and having a consultation among the parties concerned to finally resolving an issue.

As it does not require the kind of time or money involved in a court case, ODR is expected to help victims of online problems who have so far not taken any action, but instead let their cases drop.

Under the envisaged plan, members of the public and private sectors will open a website for consumers who fall victim to problems as a result of online shopping and other forms of e-commerce. Consumers will fill in forms with the necessary information, which will be sent to the opposite parties.

The government will develop the ODR system in cooperation with companies and industry groups that operate online shopping and auction businesses. It aims to revise the relevant legislation, including the Civil Execution Law, next year.

The latest move was prompted by an increasing number of problems stemming from the expanding e-commerce market, with consumers claiming, for example, that purchased goods never arrived or that they received items that did not match the description.

According to the Annual Report on Consumer Affairs, consumer information centers and similar facilities across the nation received 936,881 consultations in fiscal 2017. Of this number, 316,084 cases, or 33.7 percent, involved consultations related to online shopping.

As preparation for compiling the basic policy, the government will soon set up an expert panel to start discussions on issues to be tackled in realizing ODR and measures to promote the use of the system.

Dispute settlement procedures by ODR are launched on the condition that the parties concerned consent. Therefore, whether an opposite party agrees to ODR is a major key to using the system.

However, if this breaks down, the situation could shift to legal proceedings. As a result, using ODR can put a certain amount of pressure on the opposite party.

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