Dawn Of Technology In Dispute Resolution

The growth of online shopping, online financial trading, online banking to online tuition, emphasises our growing dependence on technology and online communication. Technology has changed almost all areas of human existence, and dispute resolution is no exception. The internet and the use of computers are now an integral part of our lives.

We live in an inescapable world of technology; this extends to law practice in the form of online dispute resolution (ODR). ODR is the use of information and communication technologies to assist parties to manage, transform and resolve their differences/conflicts. ODR is, of course, a broad field with many facets, based on technology supported third party intervention efforts aimed at dispute resolution, peace-building or conflict management.

Cyberspace as a platform for providers

There is an inevitability in the rise of the settlement of disputes online given our technological world. According to the father of ODR, and Director of the National Center for Technology and Dispute Technology at the University of Massachusetts, Professor Ethan Katsh “Cyberspace is, increasingly, a place where there are processes available to users as well as information“. Katsh states the Center seeks to understand the nature of the online environment and how this environment affects disputes and conflict resolution. It encourages the development of information technology applications and works to understand how individuals separated by great physical, cultural or technological distances can utilise virtual legal resources and expertise in the conduct of their commercial and personal relationships.

There is debate among ODR experts as to whether there is the need for a separate legal jurisdiction of cyberspace or whether laws of states can be adapted to cover issues that arise online. However, the undeniable fact is that online cultures, with their legal doctrines and legal processes, are springing up daily. Successful platforms actively utilising ODR include eBay, Paypal, and Amazon. eBay, for instance, reports that over 35 million disputes using eBay’s free ODR services get resolved annually. Its preferred dispute resolution provider Square Trade offers two services: Complaints are either settled by a free web-based forum, or, if necessary, with the assistance of a professional mediator.

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