Internet Dispute Resolution – Part III

Internet dispute resolution has evolved and become more prevalent in recent years. The internet has offered many advantages when it comes to electronic commercial transactions and communications. It has enabled e-commerce websites to gain access to domestic and foreign customers. Naturally, there could be disputes between the e-commerce websites and their customers, or alternatively, between the customers themselves. These disputes are usually related to contractual rights and responsibilities which can be resolved through alternative dispute resolution – e.g., arbitration, mediation.

Geographic location of the parties can create an impediment for dispute resolution purposes. This is especially true because in most circumstances the parties hire a third-party neutral to review their files and issue a final decision. Internet dispute resolution provides an option to have the parties reach a practical solution even though they may be in different jurisdictions. The parties and their neutral judge can be in geographically different locations and need not meet in person to reach a final decision. This, in and of itself, provides a huge advantage from a logistical point. It also brings down the cost of traveling since they can use videoconferencing technologies.

Technology tools and techniques have provided a relatively stable platform for internet dispute resolution procedures. The software and hardware technologies that are available today allow the neutral judge (e.g., arbitrator, mediator), and interested parties, to effectively participate in the dispute resolution procedure. They can securely send and receive files which may include sensitive or confidential information such as financial information. These technologies are using encryption for security reasons. This way, the parties can have trust and confidence in the process and effectively use it.

E-mediation and E-arbitration are other terms that have been used by legal scholars and legal experts. In short, they are procedures that use technology to promote alternative dispute resolution. The legal challenges with e-mediation and e-arbitration include jurisdictional and choice-of-law issues. For example, if one party resides in California, and the other party resides in a different state (e.g., New York), the neutral judge must decide which jurisdiction’s laws should be applied. E-commerce websites usually include a “choice of law” provision that states, for example, if there is a dispute between the parties, the laws of the State of California will apply. Also, venue is determined by stating in the contract (or e-commerce website’s terms of use) that the parties agree to initiate litigation in a specific location.

Internet dispute resolution has been used by multiple e-commerce websites. For example, eBay has implemented its online dispute resolution center for many years. The resolution center gives the users the option to resolve their disputes on the website in a quick and efficient way. The courts are now embracing internet dispute resolution (a/k/a “ODR”) to promote quick resolutions. The National Center for State Courts defines it as “a public-facing digital space in which parties can convene to resolve their disputes or cases.”  Of course, there are certain challenges with every new and emerging technology advancement. For example, finding the right investors to help the company setup the platform can be challenging. The next challenge would be to setup a platform that can be used by all parties, including, but not limited to, the plaintiff, defendant, and neutral judge. The next issue would be finding and managing qualified neutrals who would be reviewing cases and rendering their decisions. The cost of the project can be a challenge. Finally, the platform must have a reliable customer support team.

Our law firm assists clients in matters related to internet dispute resolution procedures. It’s important to know your legal rights and responsibilities when involved with domestic or foreign internet transactions. Please contact our law firm to speak with an internet attorney at your earliest convenience.