ABA Journal: “Can justice be served online?”

Jayne Reardon in the ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels blog:

“According to the book Digital Justice: Technology and the Internet of Disputes, disputes arise in 3 to 5 percent of online transactions, totaling over $700 million in e-commerce disputes in 2015 alone. Millions are overcharged, find credit report mistakes, are hacked, subjected to identity theft or are harassed while playing online games. ODR tools for resolving disputes include substituting software-based decision-making for the exchange of information that typically characterizes the mediation process. In 2012, eBay claimed it handled more than 60 million disputes between buyers and sellers by providing software that assisted the parties to negotiate a satisfactory outcome over 80 percent of the time. Alibaba, as of last year the world’s largest retailer, generating more revenue than Amazon.com and eBay combined, handles hundreds of millions of disputes per year.

So there are a lot of disputes, but the amounts at issue are generally small, and the buyer and seller are often in different countries, aided by distributors in yet a third or fourth location. This puts notions of subject matter jurisdiction and service of process a-spinning.

That’s where technology enters the picture as a way to efficiently and equitably resolve disputes. The premise of the Digital Justice authors is that access to justice can be enabled by software and mouse clicks just as in the old days, it was affected by the hours a court was open or how distant it was located from one’s home. Experimentation in small claims online courts is happening in the United Kingdom, British Columbia, the Netherlands and spottily in the United States.

Beyond resolution, the authors challenge us to think about how people could be better served by the law if we focus on preventing the relationship from erupting into a full-blown dispute in the first place…”

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