The Civil Justice Council (CJC) has set up an advisory group, chaired by Professor Richard Susskind, to explore the role that online dispute resolution (ODR) can play in resolving civil disputes.
The advisory group will look at the potential and limitations of the use of ODR to resolve civil disputes worth less than £25,000.
ODR involves the resolution of disputes across the internet, using techniques such e-negotiation and e-mediation, as opposed to ‘virtual’ courts facilitated by video conferencing.
The group’s terms of reference also include undertaking an initial cost/benefit analysis of ODR as an alternative and accessible means of resolving disputes, and identifying clearly any limitations and drawbacks of ODR processes, as well as kick-starting the policy process of considering options for ODR provision and regulation.
The group will examine the overlap between ODR and virtual courts as part of its work.
Professor Susskind said: “ODR is already used widely. Perhaps its best known application is on eBay where, each year, over 60m 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?
“We are also going to explore the limitations and drawbacks of ODR – while our starting place is that ODR offers great potential, especially for sorting out lower-value claims, there will inevitably be issues that need flagging up to protect consumers and businesses.”
CJC chairman 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.”
Professor Richard Susskind is joined on the group by: Dr Pablo Cortés, University of Leicester; Adrian Dally, Financial Ombudsman Service; Paul Harris, HM Courts and Tribunals Service; Dr Julia Hornie, Queen Mary University of London; barrister Matthew Lavy; Nick Mawhinney, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills; David Parkin, Ministry of Justice; Dr Sue Prince, University of Exeter; Graham Ross, lawyer and mediator; Beth Silver, Barclays Bank (and CJC member); Roger Smith, researcher, journalist and consultant; Tim Wallis, independent mediator; and CJC secretary Peter Farr.