Online Dispute Resolution and the Future of the Internet
Information and communications technology is enabling consumers to engage in billions of transactions all around the world just as easily as they used to buy items from their corner store. But just like in the face-to-face world, problems can arise in these transactions, over matters as diverse as item or service quality, privacy, intellectual property, and defamation.
Each of these issues needs to be resolved in a timely and effective way to preserve consumer trust and confidence in the internet. But because these new transactions are cross-border, low value, and high volume, traditional face-to-face judicial systems are essentially incapable of providing effective solutions. The best approach to tackling this challenge is Online Dispute Resolution, or ODR.
ODR enables the construction of low-cost, cross-border resolution systems that are independent of any one nation’s jurisdiction, which better mirrors the structure of the internet. ODR tools range from fully automated online negotiation processes to expert-powered online arbitration systems. Internet companies have invested heavily in ODR systems over the last decade because they understand the vital importance of solving customer problems.
Now public international bodies are designing their own systems to provide redress, and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) has created a permanent ODR Working Group to develop rules for a global small-claims system, backed up by national consumer protection authorities around the globe. These systems are taking the first step toward mapping out a new justice system for the 21st century, one which may begin by focusing on low value consumer claims, but can scale to provide redress in higher value B2B claims, and eventually even issues of war and peace.