In these times of insecurity about the future, we have nevertheless some certitudes. One of them, no doubt about it, is that “online intermediation services are key enablers of entrepreneurship and new business models”. EU Regulation 2019/1150 on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services is dealing with it. This Regulation shall apply from 12 July 2020.
The purpose of this Regulation is laying down rules to ensure that business users of online intermediation services and corporate website users are granted appropriate transparency, fairness and effective redress possibilities (art. 1). It applies to online intermediation services and online search engines provided to business users and corporate website users having their place of establishment UE and offering goods or services to consumers in the Union, irrespective of the place of establishment of the providers and the applicable law.
The rules shall apply, particularly, to online marketplaces, social media outlets, application distribution platforms, platforms for the collaborative economy and general search engines.
What I would like to underline in this post is that the Regulation foresees (art. 12) the use of mediation as a specific method of conflict resolution between online intermediation service providers and professional users. Mediation is promoted without prejudice to its voluntariness and the right to judicial claim.
In particular, the providers of the intermediation services shall identify in their general terms and conditions, two or more mediators with whom they are willing to engage to attempt to reach —in good faith— an agreement with business users on the settlement, out of court, of any disputes between the provider and the business user. Only service providers that are small companies would be exempted from assuming this obligation, without prejudice to being able to do so voluntarily.
The Regulation also contains the requirements these mediators must meet: some general ones (independence, with affordable services, act without delay, easily accessible) and others more specific or that will need special qualification (ability to mediate in the language of the general conditions and who have sufficient knowledge of intra-company trade relations).
It is also interesting to notice that the service providers shall bear a reasonable proportion of the total costs of mediation in each individual case, according to the indications of the mediator and to some criteria such as relative merits of the claims of the parties, their conduct, as well as the size and their financial strength.
The conclusion seems clear: Mediation, as an alternative to court or arbitral dispute resolution, is increasing its space in the EU regulations. It is always a voluntary way to solve conflicts, and it is worth considering its effectiveness in all business areas. This Regulation is expressly considering it.