Justice goes on-line
Even in the most advanced economies, justice is not universal. For many, it remains unaffordable and inaccessible – and this is especially the case for relatively small claims related to the supply of goods and services.
The explosion of on-line trade has made the absence of recourse especially evident. Indeed, over recent years, e-bay has become the primary source of dispute resolution, handling over 60 million claims a year. But those who have made use of this mechanism will often attest to its unsatisfactory nature and the ability of the unscrupulous merchant to ‘work the system’.
UNCITRAL initiated work several years ago to develop an universal system for on-line dispute resolution. It recognized that, while domestic processes for handling small claims might be inadequate, for international transactions they are non-existent. IACCM was involved with this worthy initiative – but it has proven slow to make progress. Now, the UK’s Civil Justice Council is calling for the creation of an on-line court to provide mediation and, where necessary, judgment for low-value claims.
Such a system will only apply in a domestic context, but would represent a welcome step forward in increasing the accessibility of justice. It might also have an interesting impact on the use and attention paid to contracts. If there is an effective form of recourse, both parties will have increased interest in ensuring clarity of rights and obligations.