CJC sets up an advisory group for online dispute resolution

By Rachel Buchanan

The Civil Justice Council (CJC) has set up a new advisory group, chaired by Professor Richard Susskind OBE, to explore the role that Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) can play in resolving civil disputes.

The group will conduct a review of the potential and limitations of the use of ODR for resolving civil disputes of value less than £25,000 in England and Wales.

ODR involves the resolution of disputes across the internet, using techniques such e-negotiation and e-mediation. Currently the best known ODR is probably EBay, where Professor Susskind says, “each year, over 60 million disagreements amongst traders are resolved using online techniques and not the courts. The CJC advisory group will be looking at the wider potential for ODR. Can it resolve disputes amicably without the expense and trauma of parties having to go to court”.

ODR involves the resolution of disputes across the internet, using techniques such e-negotiation and e-mediation. In ODR, the information management process is carried out by computers and software rather than a physical person, leading some to label ICT itself as an independent “fourth party”.

The courts do currently utilise some forms of ODR in services available for money claims. The Money Claims online service is HM Courts & Tribunals Service Internet based service for claimants and defendants, for money claims against less than two defendants for £100,000 or less. It is an automated service process up until the claim is issued, after which claims are processed centrally and (prior to the advent of the single County Court) automatically transferred to the Claimants local County Court. The European Small Claims Procedure (ESCP) currently provides consumers and businesses over Europe with a debt recovery process for cross-border claims which do not exceed EU 2000. This relies partly on ODR to deliver the service.

The Chairman of the CJC, Lord Dyson, the Master of the Rolls, said: "The CJC is always interested in exploring ways for improving the civil justice system and making it more accessible. Online Dispute Resolution certainly offers opportunities for doing this, and we await the report of Richard Susskind's group with great interest."

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