ODR beyond Boundaries—Countries need to develop systems for ODR within and beyond borders
The second day of the ODR 2011 focuses on a range of issues in arriving at a comprehensive worldwide ODR system
According to Prof. Ethan Katsh (the brain behind ODR and its popularity), at the national level, online dispute resolution (ODR) can be profitably employed to resolve citizen-related issues. His talk revolved around how governments can play a pivotal role in solving disputes by adopting a multidisciplinary approach and by avoiding bias. For example, backlogs of judicial cases can be quickly cleared through the ODR route. From commercial online dispute resolution, ODR is now at the doorsteps of government. This seems to be the natural progression for ODR, which is being applied across domains and sectors, at times without conscious knowledge. But are the countries ready to adopt the changing paradigms in addressing disputes? No seems to the answer or the initiatives are too isolated to make meaningful impact across the world.
John Andrew Singer of the Federal Trade Commission listed the initiatives of the US government in addressing customer disputes. The website customergov.in registers complaints from citizens of all nationalities (and has a mechanism to solve them even across borders through a collaborative approach) and the US government invites other nations to be part of its initiative but only 29 nations have so far signed up. Although India is not part of this group, the complaints originating from India make it to the top ten among the number of complaints filed by countries. The UNCITRAL ODR discussion centered on discussions on the UNCITRAL's deliberations in bringing together a framework for ODR at least for low cost, high volume transactions. For example, a $5 transaction across borders, if falls into a dispute, would consume more that $5 to be resolved. ODR can bring down the costs considerably. Colin Rice (Director of ODR at eBay and PayPal) who was part of the UNCITRAL discussion, said that the disputing parties in eBay want a quicker resolution of the dispute even if it means losing the claim rather than waiting for longer time to get a ruling in its favor. Louis Del Duca, Professor of Law and Director of Commercial Law Institute at Penn State, said the focus of the group is defined as "low cost, high volume" transactions, although the cost limit is not clearly defined yet. Zbynek Loebl, an Internet and ODR expert from the Czech Republic, listed various contentious issues and bottlenecks in arriving at a consensus-based ODR system that can be applied by UNCITRAL.
ODR and India
The Consumer Online Resource and Empowerment Center (CORE) panel made various valid recommendations to the existing system of dispute resolution in India. Earlier in the day, Dr. Vijayakumar, Vice Chancellor of the Ambedkar Law University, provided a perspective on ODR in India. Explaining that the concept is not understood, he said none of the 920 law colleges in the country offers a course on ODR. He also pointed out the importance of building confidence in the customer while going in for ODR. Rodney Ryder, Partner with Scriboard and considered an authority on cyber law in India, presented the Indian perspective of cyber law, especially in relation to domain name dispute resolution. He listed a few cases of cyber squatting and how his firm resolved them.
ODR in action: Customer Disputes and Disability
Earlier in the day, Chinthaka Kanake provided a perspective on ODR and customer support initiatives whereas Aura Esther Vilalta (lecturer in law from Spain) gave a comprehensive coverage of B2B, B2C, and C2C redressal across the world. Rahul Cherian of InclusivePlanet.com (India) gave a rather different view of ODR from the disabled point of view.
Community policing and microjustice
To add a community outlook to the proceedings and to expose some relevant initiatives to the audience, community policing and microjustice were given presentation slots. J.K. Tripathy, Inspector General of Police, Tamil Nadu, gave a presentation of community policing in Trichy (one of the major cities in Tamil Nadu) and how it helped bring down the crime rate in the city. M.P. Vasimalai, Executive Director of a Dhan, listed microjustice initiatives undertaken by the company to enable dispute resolution for microfinance beneficiaries.
--Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist, YourStory