Solving conflicts with Online Dispute Resolution

| Jelle Hoekstra | Dispute Resolution

Many people are forced to work at home and communicate online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies will feel the effects of the developing crisis, which will inevitably lead to conflicts and professional disputes. Since many people work online nowadays, it is only fitting that conflicts are also solved online. This can be done effectively with the help of a neutral third party in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR). In this article we introduce you to an alternative way to settle business issues.

The year 2020 might be a turning point for the digital economy. We already discussed the COVID-19 virus in our article about ransomware. This virus might be a bigger accelerator of digital growth than any ‘disruptive technology’ from the past decades. There are however big consequences for the economy and businesses in particular. In order to survive in times like these, it is important to solve conflicts or disputes quickly and in a cost effective way. Preferably this should be done ‘Corona-proof’, settling issues from a safe distance. Let’s explore how Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) can be a solution.

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)

One of the first online dispute resolution provider was established in 1999, so this idea is not new. Due to the rapid growth of online communication, there is a growing need for ODR. The UNCITRAL defines ODR as “a system for dispute resolution through an information technology-based platform and facilitated through the use of electronic communications and other information technology”.

A negotiation session between two parties facilitated by an IT based platform would already count as ODR. Companies like eBay and PayPall developed ODR departments for example to handle customer complaints, in these cases text based content was also part of the ODR process. These examples show that ODR doesn’t have to be limited to a video session. In more complex cases, such a video meeting under the guidance of a trained third party is highly recommended though.

Alternatives to ODR

Well, actually ODR already is an alternative way of conflict solving. The most classic way to settle disputes is by going to court. Court litigation however, is often costly and time-consuming and can harm business relationships. Increasingly, parties are turning to alternative ways to settle their disputes. This has led to development of a professional area which is called ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’. ODR can be seen as a specific example of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

There are several other types of ADR which can be blended in hybrid forms as well, such as mediation, arbitration and expert determination (see also our page on expert research). For most intellectual property (IP) and technology-related disputes, one or more types of ADR may be suitable. If well managed, ADR can save time and money as well as provide a range of additional benefits.

Reasons to use ODR

There is a global pandemic, it is hard to travel internationally. However: conflicts do not go into quarantine. Courts face big work loads so chances are your complaints won’t be handled quickly. As an entrepreneur you are better off taking control and start negotiating in an ODR process. Conflicts escalate easily, that is something you might know from experience. A third party can help you get de-escalate a business conflict. This will help you get to a “win-win” situation:

Friedrich Glasl’s model of conflict escalation. Source: Wikipedia.org

There are more benefits of ODR (mediation), the procedures are:

  • entirely confidential;
  • non-binding and controlled by the parties;
  • interest-based, this means that also non-legal issues can be discussed and negotiated;
  • fast;
  • cost-effective.

Interested to discuss your options? ICT Institute has a trained mediator and an expert researcher available for ODR processes. If you want to know more about mediation you can take a look at the website of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Other recourses can be found at the Dutch/Swiss institute of IT dispute resolution (SGOA/ITDR).

Author: Jelle Hoekstra
Jelle Hoekstra LLM is consultant and mediator at ICT Institute. He is a certified privacy professional (CIPP/E & CIPM), security consultant (ISO27001 Lead Auditor) and IMI Qualified Mediator. Before he worked at several organisations as legal advisor and Privacy & Security Officer. Jelle is member of the International Association for Privacy Professionals (IAPP), the Dutch association for Data Protection Officers (NGFG, Nederlands Genootschap voor Functionarissen van Gegevensbescherming) and member at the International Mediation Institute (IMI).