Conflict Resolution|systems design

ODR and Napoleon: World Conquest

No sooner had Colin Rule addressed my students at New York Law School but we met each other again in Washington, DC, where he was on a panel on online dispute resolution at the Annual Meeting of the ABA’s Section on Dispute Resolution.  Colin’s seven years with EBay/Paypal, combined with his new start-up Modria, have turned that sparkle in his eye to a glint.  He sees the future, does Colin, and it doesn’t include lawyers — or the law.

EBay, Paypal and Modria offer consumers the opportunity for redress in high-volume, low-value disputes.  While the lawyers parse out class action arbitration and the intricacies of distinguishing recent Supreme Court decisions, Colin Rule is just going ahead and getting it done.  Here’s how:

Online, it’s entirely possible to enter into a transaction in which an English buyer and a Polish seller arrange for the sale of goods to be shipped from Brazil or America.  If that transaction goes awry, what court has jurisdiction?  What law prevails in the deal?  Who would represent these three entities, and where, and when, and how do they get paid?

In Colin Rule’s world, the law takes a back seat — or, a step further, it sleeps in.  Instead, the parties communicate through the internet, advising what the buyer wants and what the seller is prepared to do.  This dispute resolution process is an “alternative” to nothing — no court and no law is involved. 

The driving energy is a shared concern for the integrity of the online marketp[lace.  Users must trust the efficiency of the marketplace — buyers and sellers equally — and have an interest in disputes being acknowledged and resolved efficiently. 

Indeed, according to Colin, people who have filed disputes with EBay use EBay more frequently than those who have not.  And 6,000,000 disputes a year get filed and resolved.

No “judicial backlog,” either.

Dispute resolution without the law?  O brave new world, that has such creatures in it!

  1. There is indeed a huge need for services that can settle disputes that arise through e-commerce – and Modria seems to be doing a greg job at offering just that.

    Additionally, offers a forum where disputes that arise ‘offline’ can be settled. It’s neutral directory lists over 300 specialist arbitrators and mediators.

    There’re plenty of other providers of online dispute resolution, most of whom are increasing access to justice, while reducing that ‘judicial backlog’

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