Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is a branch of dispute resolution or out of court settlement which uses technology and web as a medium through which disputes are resolved. As stated by its name, ODR has developed by merging Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) with Information and Communication Technology (ICT). It mostly consists of mediation, negotiation, client counselling, arbitration or any combination of either two or more of the mentioned disciplines. ODR can take place either partly or entirely online and it seeks to resolve both; the disputes arising in cyberspace and out of cyberspace. Being a modern take on ADR, usage of ODR has a lot of advantages, which are stated as follows:
- Cost-Effective Technique: When compared to litigation, ODR is extremely cost-effective as it cuts down on the hefty attorney fee that one has to pay to avail the court service. Also, as compared to traditional ADR, ODR is more cost-effective as it cuts down on the huge travelling expenses duringthe process of resolving disputes manually. The fee paid to reputed third-party for good services, is significantly cut-down as none of the parties need to be physically present in front of one another.
- Convenient Technique: ODR covers a wide range of geographical area. This guarantees good quality service to all the people of different regions. There is also an increase in choice of service providers in case of ODR, as various websites providing these services can seek to resolve a matter irrespective of the location of their head office. For example places like Bangalore, which has the very reputed Bangalore International Mediation, Arbitration and Conciliation Centre, has an advantage over other places lacking such infrastructure. However, through the means of ODR, the gap between various regions is bridged.
- Issue of Jurisdiction: The settlement which the disputed parties enter into is bound by an agreement, and the issue of jurisdiction of court can be easily avoided. This, in turn, saves time of the disputed parties.
However to every advantage, there is a disadvantage. ODR too has certain drawbacks as follows:
- Impersonal: ODR imposes electronic distance between the parties. There is no physical appearance of the dispute resolver. In other words, due to virtual process of ODR,the emotional state of the disputed parties and the resultant body language and tone are not expressed to the dispute resolver. This poses a hindrance to form any sort of personal relationship with the dispute resolver. Also, the dispute resolver has no control over the temper and tone of the disputed parties. In such a situation, the persuasive value of the resolver also significantly decreases.
- Knowledge of Computers: To avail ODR, the essential preliminary requirement is to have a basic sense of computers and operation of the internet. However, this becomes a problem in a country like India. Being a developing country, not a lot of people have access to computers. Even those who do, lack the trust required to avail ODR or any online services. Thus, there is not only ignorance pertaining to computers, but also the reluctance of the usage of them.
- Breach of Confidentiality: Often in the process of dispute resolution, a lot of confidential information regarding the parties themselves or the parties whom they represent is revealed. Confidential information is particularly more crucial in corporate negotiation in which often trade secrets are revealed. However, cyber space is prone to cyber crime. Hacking is on a rise. If not properly secured, confidential information can be easily leaked out, having a detrimental effect on the parties concerned.
- Limited Disputes: As a resultant of all these reasons, the disputes that come within the ambit of ODR are limited to an extent. For example, one of the most frequent disputes is that of a landlord and tenant. In such an agreement, there are a lot of intricate details involved including the frustration faced by the non-conformity of the landlord- tenant agreement. One would find it extremely tedious to convey all the points of dispute, their reasons for non-conformity and any kind of rebuttal in a complex matter through an online mode, and would prefer to resolve it by personal contact.
Despite these drawbacks, ODR would soon rise to be the most popular method of dispute resolution. However, currently, ODR in India is still at its infancy stage. While there are websites which provide consultancy services, but there are several complicated disciplines like mediation, negation etc. that are yet to be popularised. With the growth of E-Commerce, it wouldn’t be long that different websites come up with ODR suited to the Indian population, to resolve disputes in a faster and cost-saving manner.