ODR is certainly growing. There has been a review of the court system recently in the UK and Lord Justice Briggs has recommended reforms, which may promote the use of ODR. The proposals involve taking the court system online and so reducing the need for live hearings. It is proposed that there will be 3 stages. The first – a largely automated service for identifying issues; the second conciliation
and case management by case officers; the third – resolution by judges. Once the issues have been identified there will be a negotiation stage where attempts will be made to settle the dispute. Finally the matter, if unresolved, will proceed to be heard before a Judge but this will be done largely on the papers and it is unlikely there will be any need for the parties to physically attend Court. It may not even be necessary for the parties to be present at the same time. It is my understanding that at present the proposed new system will be limited to monetary claims up to £25,000. However, this limit may be moved upwards in time. Whilst the new system will not ban the involvement of lawyers part of the driving force behind the reforms is to avoid the necessity for lawyers thus providing access to justice for those who cannot afford to pay for legal representation. Accordingly, it is proposed that the new system will be straightforward so lay clients can navigate it without the assistance of lawyers and that there will be court staff available to explain the operation of the system. It may be that the early stages of the new system will allow for the use of ODR neutrals to try to settle the dispute.
We have recently seen the implementation of directives from the EU which will also no doubt provide new opportunities for ODR neutrals. The recent directives oblige businesses to provide consumers with the details of a mediation provider when a complaint is made. In addition, those businesses which trade online are obliged to put on their website the details of an ODR provider. It is my understanding that the UK government has approved certain specified mediation providers for this purpose. It remains to be seen whether many consumers will want to use this service but it is certainly hoped they will, although there is no obligation on businesses to agree to refer the matter to mediation as the obligation is only to provide the details of a suitable mediation provider (but not actually to use it).
These issues were discussed at a recent conference I attended on behalf of Brav in Liverpool, UK last month entitled “Online Dispute Resolution-Justice Re-imagined”. Indeed, Lord Briggs addressed the conference being the keynote speaker. The EU Directive was mentioned although it was noted that use of the ODR remains limited, as it seems many businesses have failed to comply with the EU Directive. However, it is anticipated that the use of ODR by consumers will increase over time as more businesses become aware of the requirements of the EU Directive.
The conference drew speakers from all over the world covering a wide range of subjects. It is apparent that ODR is being implemented worldwide. Indeed, we even heard about how the Chinese are implementing ODR into their legal system. I can’t wait for the next conference…
Brāv Online Mediator