The Civil Justice Council (CJC) has established a new advisory group to explore the role that online dispute resolution (ODR) can play in resolving civil disputes.

ODR involves the resolution of disputes across the internet, using techniques such e-negotiation and e-mediation.   It is an area that is receiving an increasing amount of attention, including the introduction of the EU ODR Regulation (Regulation (EU) 524/2013) in July 2013.  As detailed in our earlier post here, the ODR Regulation provides for the EU Commission to establish a free, interactive website through which parties can inititate ADR in relation to disputes concerning online transactions (offline transactions are excluded).  The bulk of its provisions will take effect from 9 January 2016.

The CJC advisory group, which will be chaired by Professor Richard Susskind OBE, will comprise leading academics with a special interest in ODR, legal and mediation practitioners, and business and Civil Service policy and operational representatives.  It will prepare a report for the CJC (in the first instance), with recommendations for next steps or further research required.

Although the group will initially focus on the potential use of ODR for claims worth less than £25,000, the work undertaken could be expected to inform decision making more widely regarding the availability and regulation of ODR in the UK in the future.

The Terms of Reference of the advisory group are :

  • To conduct a review of the potential and limitations of the use of ODR for resolving civil disputes of value less than £25,000 in England and Wales.
  • To review and categorise existing forms of ODR, to consider their likely future development and in so doing to raise awareness and understanding of the opportunities and challenges of ODR.
  • To undertake an initial cost/benefit analysis of ODR as an alternative and accessible means of resolving disputes, identifying clearly any limitations and drawbacks of ODR processes.
  • To kick-start the policy process of considering options for ODR provision and regulation.
  • To take account of technological advances and developments that will affect the use and attractions of ODR.
  • To consider the overlaps between ODR and virtual courts.
  • To prepare a report for the CJC (in the first instance), with recommendations for next steps or further research required.