The European Union has suffered a language issue as language as acted as a barrier to trade. Human translation services have been slow to adapt to the growing needs and machine translation technologies have been seen as a technological solution for fast translation – particularly for online business, eCommerce, etc. However, the question of what happens when online shopping translation mistakes affect the quality of online shopping or who pays for disputes between companies in one country and consumers that speak another language somewhere else has always been a stumbling block. According to reports by Language Tech Market News, the EU wants to be the driving force in eliminating some of the barriers that hold back Europe’s digital single market. On February 15, the European Commission launched its Alternative / Online Dispute Resolution (ADR / ODR) platform.
The platform aims to make “consumers and traders more confident in trading online and across borders”. The aim is also to avoid legal battles with the Commission’s website saying that “if consumers have a complaint about a good or service they have bought, instead of going to court, they can choose Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).”
The procedure for Online Dispute Resolution comes in 4 steps. When a consumer is unsatisfied he / she will
- Fill in the dispute form;
- The complaint will then be sent to company. The latter will propose an ADR entity to the consumer;
- The platform will transfer the complaint to that entity automatically;
- ADR entity will handle the case entirely online, with a target outcome expected in 90 days. The parties will need to agree which 1 of the more than 100 dispute resolution bodies they are going to use.
Due to its language mandate and with over 20 official languages, it is clear that cross-border dispute resolution in the European Union is going to require a lot of translation. However, the Commission promises that “the platform is multilingual. A translation service is available on the platform to assist disputes involving parties based in different European countries.” And this has been a target for the EU for a long time. The question then is, how can the EU going make sure that consumers in Italy have their dispute resolutions in Italian if their complaint is against a company from Germany?
Here’s when machine translation comes to help. The EU already called several key machine translation developers to learn first-hand from commercial practitioners. We were one of the companies invited to introduce some of the techniques and developments in machine translation late 2015. Plans are that the ODR platform will make use of the Commission’s corporate tool MT@EC for machine translation.
However, machine translation is not the end of the road. Users will also be able to request for the final outcome to be translated professionally by a human translator. When a reporter from translation news site Slator asked who will be responsible for providing “professional translation services”, the Commission’s spokesperson said that translation requests will be managed by the EU’s Translation Centre, the largest translation center in the world with a budget over $412M/€330M. The spokesperson assured Slator that “the cost for the professional translation is covered by the European Commission.”
When questioned if the EU expects a large or small the number of disputes, in order to gauge future translation needs, the EU’s spokesperson said that “it is not possible to give a forecast at this point in time. It will depend on the uptake of the platform by EU consumers and traders.”
Currently, it is not possible to provide a forecast about system use. It is “unclear how many among the complaints submitted through the platform will be cross-border, and among those, how many between Member States with different languages.” However, this may mean good times for translation as a profession, for translation professionals and for EU translation vendors.