City firm Bargate Murray has launched an online arbitration system aimed at small businesses and consumers.
The move comes as the Independent Loss Adjusters Association (ILAA) launches a claims review service, aimed at resolving disputes without the need for litigation.
Ajuve, which describes itself as “the fast-track online alternative to court”, is co-founded by Quentin Bargate, senior partner of Bargate Murray, and his son Alex, online marketing manager at the firm.
A spokeswoman said it would initially use the firm’s lawyers as arbitrators, before opening up the site to outsiders.
She said the arbitration service aimed to deliver binding awards in no more than six weeks and charged a “simple, up-front fee” based on the amount in dispute. According to the website, fees are £25, plus 3% of the amount in dispute above £500.
“Ajuve also provides a simple settlement calculator along with a dispute resolution clause, available to download for free, which businesses can include in contracts should a dispute arise in the future. They also plan to add an online mediation module to the site in the coming months.”
Quentin Bargate added: “After 30 years of experience in the legal sector, I, like many other lawyers, have become increasingly frustrated with the time, cost and stress associated with dispute resolution.
“There is a clear need for a simple and affordable system of online dispute resolution – we don’t need to be prisoners of an imperfect past.
“While we may face some resistance from other lawyers to begin with, we think the majority will see its obvious benefits. Ajuve is a solution to their headache of dealing with unprofitable claims and also offers firms the opportunity to be seen to be part of the 21st century, not the 19th century.”
Meanwhile the ILAA has launched a claims review service, enabling loss adjusters to provide clients with an “entirely independent professional opinion” on the merits of a claim before it reaches the courts.
The association said the service was not intended to replace the help provided by the Financial Ombudsman, nor “provide a legal opinion, such as that offered by solicitors and counsel”.
However, the ILAA said consumers would get the opportunity to obtain a “second opinion” from an expert before a decision was taken to refer the matter to the ombudsman, pursue formal mediation or begin litigation.
Fees are negotiated with the individual loss adjuster “depending on the scope, complexity and degree of involvement required in each case”.
Simon Burley, board member at the ILAA, said the service was particularly aimed at property disputes and public liability cases where quantum was an issue.