New Kenyan ODR Provider: Utatuzi Center

From the Utatuzi Center website:

“Utatuzi Center (UC) is a highly innovative web-based platform created on the acknowledgment that disputes are inherent and inevitable to human beings. They will arise in our lives and our workplaces at any time.

Accordingly, our goal as Utatuzi Center (UC) is to provide a digital platform that links companies, small and medium-sized firms, and clients from different fields with eminently qualified and highly experienced alternative dispute resolution professionals-Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators- who have been selected for their proven track record of resolving commercial disputes.

We aim at preemptively, proactively, and expeditiously resolving disputes with minimal or zero litigation. Our platform is API-enabled, meaning that the platform will be integrated into our clients’ compatible backend to allow automatic notifications, response, and tracking of disputes at the comfort of their desktops.

We acknowledge the fact that litigation through the court system in Kenya for businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises often takes long, it is expensive, quite cumbersome and procedural. It will most likely destroy any business relationship between the conflicting parties.

Our web-based platform offers well thought Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) strategies such as Arbitration, Mediation, and Conciliation through which businesses, firms, and different clients can resolve their commercial, human resource, and other issues and retain a cordial working relationship. Our services will ensure that your disputes are resolved professionally, expeditiously, and confidentially. Therefore, saving you time and resources and allowing you to maximize your business’ goals and profits.

Further, our platform has a modern state of art video conferencing platform which allows for virtual sessions and Online Disputes Resolution ( ODR) for e-commerce transactions and other disputes arising from the internet, thus giving transacting parties a viable recourse. Consequently, negating the need for physical meetings.”

Here’s their overview video from the HiiL Innovating Justice conference:

Learn more at https://www.utatuzicenter.com/

NY State Courts Launch Small Claims ODR

Big news out of New York — the NY State Courts have launched their first ODR system for small claims cases: https://lnkd.in/e_RZGDk. This system, based on underlying technology from Matterhorn, is the first time a technology-based dispute resolution process has been introduced into the NY state court system.

This launch is due in no small part to hard work from NCTDR Fellows David Larson and Amy Schmitz and Vikki Rogers who worked pro bono for years in NY (with many fits and starts) to build support for such a system.

The NY State system launched one week ago and represents a historic leap forward in expanding access to justice. Kudos to all the team members who made it happen — we can’t wait to see where this will lead!

(h/t to Susan Guthrie for the heads up)

ODR LATINOAMERICA’s review of the 2020 activities (with infographic)

PRESS RELEASE

December 30, 2020 

More than 3,000 specialists in Conflict Resolution choose online training to take their practice to the next level 

To a large extent pushed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the world in 2020 and led the world population to confinement in their homes, face-to-face formats had to give way to virtual and online spaces.

ODR Latinoamerica a is a Social Network and an Academic Space that since 2006 works on the field of Online Dispute Resolution / Alternative Dispute Resolution. In this context of world health emergencies, we had to respond immediately to the urgent training needs regarding the use of new technologies in the professional field.

 We decided then to put the engine at maximum power to expand and diversify the offer of courses and activities for all professional conflict operators and related specialists. What we found was a surprising response and an urgent need for applied learning in relation to New Information and Communication Technologies. 

We would like, as a summary, to share with you our main activities; those that have made a difference for the mediator community and that have allowed many specialists to cope with these times where presence is so limited and conflicts are the order of the day. 

We hope that 2021 finds us stronger and more together than ever.

SEE ODR LATINOAMERICA’s 2020 INFOGRAPHIC HERE

Legaler.com Announces Compliance with ICODR Standards

The video conferencing and online collaboration company Legaler has publicly announced their compliance with ICODR’s Video Mediation and Video Arbitration standards. From their blog announcement:

“Given the importance of video conferencing in the future of dispute resolution, the International Council of Dispute Resolution’s ‘Video Meeting Guidelines’ provides a vital guide to how online tools can best be used to conduct proceedings in a way that is accessible to clients from all walks of life, fair to all parties, and secure for data sharing purposes. ICODR is the standard-setting body for arbitrators and mediators around the world, with a mission to develop and promote adoption of ethical standards for resolving disputes. At a time when dispute resolution professionals are turning to video conferencing platforms at an unprecedented rate, it is vital that they choose software that is compliant with the Video Meeting Guidelines.

Legaler is a pioneer in guaranteeing industry-first compliance with these guidelines, in line with our mission to ensure that legal services are accessible by everyone. We are one of the first legal technology companies to self-report our compliance with ICODR. This means that dispute resolution professionals using Legaler can rest assured knowing that the platform sends all required notifications automatically, without further action on their behalf, and that all privacy and security features are provided.”

Their blog post further details how the Legaler platform fulfills the requirements set out by the ICODR’s five Video Meeting Guidelines (Accessible, Competent, Confidential, Fair/Impartial/Neutral, and Secure).

Hopefully Legaler’s action will encourage other ODR and online collaboration platforms to follow suit.

You can read the full post https://blog.legaler.com/2021/01/13/how-to-comply-with-icodr-video-mediation-guidelines-using-legaler/

New Divorce ODR Platform in Italy: Bluebird Project

Good friend of NCTDR Luca Dal Pubel shared an announcement about a new divorce and separation ODR platform that just launched in Italy called the Bluebird Project. From their website (translated from Italian):

“Our services are designed to accompany you through the separation procedure in a simple and efficient way.

You can choose between [three] different options, starting from a free information and orientation service, up to a completely guided procedure, designed to address every detail of your family situation.

Orientation service
Answer a few simple questions and find out which procedure is best suited to your situation: the service is completely free. Whether it is separation, divorce, dissolution of civil union or unmarried couple or modification of the conditions of separation and divorce, we are here to advise you on the easiest way.

Basic Di-Visions
Manage your separation independently using our tools to assist in preparing and compiling documentation. Downtime and waiting times are reduced and convenience increases, all with the security of a procedure designed by qualified professionals and the possibility of requesting assistance at any time.

Premium Di-Visions
A completely personalized path, designed to help you and your partner reach an agreement on the points of separation or divorce. A completely online mediation procedure, which you can manage independently in the places and times you prefer. All with the continuous support of our network of professionals: from the search for the separation agreement to the conclusion of the procedure, from start to finish.”

Learn more here: https://di-visioni.bluebirdproject.it/home

Reflections on 9 months of virtual ADR

Great new podcast featuring two experienced mediators from JAMS looking at ODR… from the blog on the JAMS site:

“Nine months after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the legal community overall has adapted to working in a new environment. For ADR professionals and many attorneys, that means mastering the art of virtual mediation. While some have experienced a more seamless transition than others, everyone had to confront often unexpected obstacles and turn them into opportunities to be successful.

In this new podcast from JAMS, two seasoned JAMS mediators look back at their transition to virtual mediation, discuss early experiences and challenges, and share some pet peeves and tips they have developed along the way. They also offer their perspective on the opportunities that have arisen from virtual mediation and discuss why they are confident virtual mediation is here to stay.”

Listen to the full podcast and read more here: https://www.jamsadr.com/blog/2021/podcast-reflecting-on-nine-months-of-virtual-adr

New EU Digital Services Act Calls for ODR

The proposedEU Digital Services Act is designed to “regulate the obligations of digital services that act as intermediaries in their role of connecting consumers with goods, services, and content… It will give better protection to consumers and to fundamental rights online, establish a powerful transparency and accountability framework for online platforms and lead to fairer and more open digital markets… Harmonised across the EU and directly applicable, the new rules will make it easier to provide digital innovations across borders, while ensuring the same level of protection to all citizens in the EU.”

This Act includes several several sections related to ODR, particularly in terms of disputed content: “The proposal gives users and consumers the possibility to contest the decisions taken by the online platforms to remove their content, including when these decisions are based on platforms’ terms and conditions. Users can complain directly to the platform, choose an out-of-court dispute settlement body or seek redress before courts. “

As well as the requirements for ODR providers operating under the Act:

Learn more here: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/QANDA_20_2348

(h/t to Rory Van Loo from BU for the heads up)

BUY ONLINE, RESOLVE ONLINE: THE ADR4ALL SMARTPHONE APP

December 3, 2020

Consumer protection and trust is at the forefront of all discussions related to commerce. While millions of transactions fulfill the purchasing expectations of the customers there is quite a considerable number of them that do not. Consumers are mostly uninformed of the existence of online dispute resolution tools and instead of using them they are subjected to a dispute resolution adventure by being directed to other customer service tools (if the trader has such) and by struggling to establish communication with the right department/person through lengthy & persisting efforts. As the volumes of e-commerce are growing, so is the lack of trust by consumers as to the redress mechanisms the traders are making available to them to address their concerns when a problem occurs.  

On the other hand, the majority of traders seem to have prioritized the use of ADR mechanisms pretty low in their agenda. They tend to exhaust dispute resolution efforts to direct negotiations with their customers, do not seem to have appreciated the added value of the involvement of a third neutral party in the ADR process and seem to prefer postponement of their engagement in it under the belief that the low value claims discourage consumers to pursue further action through costly & time consuming court proceedings. That is a reality that calls for further thinking on the idea of establishing a framework of a mandatory ADR process for consumer disputes just like is being done more and more in several jurisdictions in civil, commercial and family cases.   

This is where we stand at the moment. So what we need is to act on two different levels. The first one is to connect technology with consumer dispute resolution. Not in the abstract, but through real tools of everyday use. We need to provide a super-fast, efficient and easily accessible environment for both consumers and traders. The consumer must be able to use online ADR at a distance of a click. They must have the option to seek redress instantly. Even at the premises of the trader. So, they need what we could call an “ADR go”. Available at all times, in all places. Smartphones can play a key role in providing access to such ADR mechanisms. With the number of smartphones projected to be 3,5 billion in 2020, 1 billion up from 2016, it is estimated that in 12 years most of the word population will hold a smartphone.  

The second level we need to work on is to address the skepticism of the traders. To understand and discuss their concerns. We need to build on a system that will facilitate honest direct negotiations between the consumer and the trader. Make them understand that the goal is neither replacing direct negotiations with neutral resolutions nor aiming solely at consumer protection, but rather at the protection of both. They need to realize that direct negotiations and ADR is a single two stage process that creates value and as such must be an integral part of their services to their customers. In that sense they need to have a modern online environment, customized to their needs. A cloud system that will allow them to manage cases internally and immediately and to help them acknowledge the complementary role of an ADR body in handling a number of unresolved disputes. A system that would become standard practice offering a customer-centered service that will upgrade the company’s image and reputation.

This is exactly what we envisage with the ADR4ALL app and the components we currently add. We are creating a consumer-trader ADR ecosystem that provides all the necessary features and tools for addressing consumer disputes. The ADR4ALL app is a joint project funded by the European Commission and ADR point and is the first smartphone app of its kind in this field not only in Europe but globally.  

The ADR4ALL smartphone app

The ADR4ALL app operates in both android and iOS systems and combines an easy interface and a dynamic case management tool. The app offers an introductory tutorial of the submission process and the user can easily file a complaint in a few clicks following the app wizard. After submitting a case the consumer can watch the status of the complaint by clicking a button at the toolbar of his app. A software calculates whether the dispute resolution process is a free or a paid service and the consumer is informed of the next steps in the process. After a complaint is submitted the system manager runs a dual check and if the case is admissible a case handler is appointed and once the trader consents to participate, the case moves on to the dispute resolution process which is completed either when parties reach an agreement during their communication with the trader or when the case handler proposes a solution which the parties may or may not follow depending on the procedural rules of the ADR body the case has been referred to. In the upcoming few months the ADR4ALL smartphone app will be converted into a holistic ADR ecosystem for consumers & traders. New features will be integrated which will allow several levels of management, a direct negotiation system built-in the app, a traders’ interactive customer management platform enabling negotiations and dispute resolution by an ADR body, features making the app accessible by vulnerable consumers, time alerts, case statistics, reviews for traders and so on.

The ADR4ALL app is an easy entry point to dispute resolution services. The updated version will be an entry point to an ADR ecosystem. What the consumers need is instant access to simple redress mechanisms. What the traders need is a familiar and well explained resolution process smoothly integrated in their customer service philosophy. What both the consumers and the traders need is full trust in ODR. Our endless effort is to let them know that dispute resolution technology has tools that can serve their needs. Matching “buying online” with “resolving online” will be the new deal for consumers and traders in the future ahead.  

Petros Zourdoumis, Founder of ODReurope , General Director of ADR point,
Fellow at the NCTDR, Member of the Central Mediation Committee of the Ministry of Justice.         

The Mediators’ Green Pledge

Anna Howard (Associate Editor) (Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London), Ian Macduff (NZ Centre for ICT Law & School of Law, Auckland University), and John Sturrock (Core Solutions Group)/October 26, 2020 /L

This blog was first posted on the Kluwer Mediation blog at http://mediationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2020/10/26/the-mediators-green-pledge/ on 26 October 2020. It is reproduced with permission.

Homo sapiens, the wise human being, must now learn from its mistakes and live up to its name. We who are alive today have the formidable task of making sure that our species does so.” David Attenborough, A Life on Our Planet

Looking back at John Sturrock’s post from February which suggested a World Mediators Alliance on Climate Change, we are struck by how it seems to address a different era. Shortly after that piece was published, the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world bringing immeasurable loss and suffering. It also brought, for many, a heightened awareness of our interconnectedness with our planet and our impact upon it.  It has also changed our mediation practices in ways we could not have foreseen just a few months ago.

As a mediation community, we have often talked about how we might mediate climate change issues. Perhaps we have not given the same amount of attention to how we might reduce the environmental impact of our own behaviour and practices as mediators – and in particular to how we can individually and collectively play our part in reducing carbon emissions. The changes precipitated by the Covid pandemic have accelerated our ability to do so.

The movement to mediation using online platforms in response to the restrictions on face-to-face meeting imposed by the pandemic has, unexpectedly for many of us, shown us that environmentally-friendly ways of mediation can be both easily accessible and effective. That is not to deny that mediation in this way may bring particular challenges, many of which have been addressed in earlier posts on this blog (see, for example, posts by Charlie IrvineGreg Bond and Jonathan Lloyd-Jones) and we will need to continue to refine our practices for the online setting during the continuing pandemic.

After the pandemic passes, while for some parties and some disputes face-to-face mediation may be the only appropriate option, for many others online mediation may well become the default option. Thus, the greater acceptance of mediation using online platforms has become an opportunity to make a meaningful reduction to the environmental impact of our mediation practices, something to which many of us believe we need to aspire in any event. Had the pandemic not occurred, we would still have wished to find ways to do so.

In response to John’s open invitation back in February to create a World Mediators Alliance on Climate Change (WoMACC), members of the international mediation community came together to form a working group, with members from New Zealand, Germany, Scotland, England and Belgium. Over the past six months, the working group has explored what WoMACC could offer to encourage mediators individually and collectively to lessen their environmental footprint.

The main output is the Mediators’ Green Pledge. This has been inspired by Lucy Greenwood’s Green Pledge for arbitration and, with Lucy’s kind permission, the working group has adapted that pledge for mediation. The Pledge, which was launched on 21st October, can be read here on the special websitewhich has been created for this purpose. Already, signatures are being added daily.

While refining the Pledge, we had many intricate and lively discussions on its wording. Does the Pledge ask too much or too little? Is it sensitive to differences across countries and cultures? Might it demonise certain aspects of mediation which many may hold dear? The Pledge is designed to be illustrative, and adaptable. While there will certainly be aspects which we have missed, the Pledge is hopefully broad enough to allow all those involved in mediation to consider how they can make changes to contribute to a greener way of mediating. The Pledge offers a foundation upon which mediators can build with their own measures tailored to their specific practices and preferences. Signatories are welcome to augment and modify the Pledge as they wish.  We encourage you to sign it.

It is easy to feel paralysed by the enormity of the formidable task identified by Attenborough. Can we really make a difference? Are those differences too difficult and too inconvenient to make? As Attenborough reminds us “the truth is that we must do these things to save ourselves.”  With that reminder, the changes we must make may suddenly appear more manageable. And perhaps they might also seem more manageable if we come together to commit to make the changes collectively, learning from and supporting one another.

The Pledge offers one way for us to come together to do so. As one signatory of the Pledge has said “This pledge is a commitment that has no end and whether it is formalised or just remains a contract to myself – it feels really good to have begun it. Thank you for giving me the nudge!”

We hope many others in the mediation community will feel the nudge!

Cyberweek 2020 is Coming!

Cyberweek 2020 is coming November 2-6, 2020! This will be our 22nd Cyberweek, and we’re confident it is going to be the best Cyberweek ever.

We will have platform demos, interviews, webinars, simulations, discussion forums, and time to just hang out and bond with your fellow attendees in a social hour.

Visit the Cyberweek homepage at http://odr.info/cyberweek2020

Click here or on the image below to review the full agenda.

(Note: the agenda will have embedded youtube links so you can replay any sessions you missed)

Fill out the form here to register for the week long online mediation simulation (we’re going to be doing a family simulation)

Thank you to Cyberweek 2020 Supporters! (Click for the full list)

Cyberweek 2020 is powered by Mediate.com