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Is an ODR System Coming Soon?

This week’s issue of The Lawyer Weekly discusses the recent developments of UNCITRAL’s Online Dispute Resolution System. Following is an excerpt from the article and link to the piece in full.

International arbitration is all over the map when it comes to resolving minor commercial disputes. Soon the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) will announce its recommended rules for an ODR later this year.

“The concern is there are many, many millions of cross-border, but small transactions,” said Timothy Lemay, principal legal officer with the UNCITRAL Secretariat in Vienna. “There is no very good place for those disputes to be resolved.”

According to a UN report on the issue, countries around the globe are looking for a consistent approach to dealing with smaller commercial disagreements — and they believe a new model is needed.

“Many delegations voiced the view that traditional dispute resolution mechanisms, including litigation through the courts, were inappropriate for addressing these types of disputes, being too costly and time-consuming in relation to the value of the transaction,” the report stated.

“It’s undeniable that government resource shortages are making it difficult for many governments to maintain or improve small-claims dispute options, so long as they continue to rely on traditional court litigation,” said Darin Thompson, legal counsel with the B.C. Ministry of the Attorney General in Victoria, Canada.

“But in terms of the UNCITRAL model for low-value, high-volume cross-border disputes, the rationale seems to be more about providing redress for consumers where none would otherwise be available,” he added.

“We’re now working on the general procedural rules, such as who files a claim, when, during what period, what can be claimed … remedies, and who decides the remedies,” said Lemay.

A three-stage process — negotiation, facilitation, and arbitration — has been recommended, he added.



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