On March 12, 2013, the European Parliament approved legislation that will see the creation of an online dispute resolution platform for use in disputes between E.U. consumers and traders originating from the online purchase of goods and services.
Specifically, the online platform will allow a party to submit a complaint electronically, inform the respondent party about the complaint, and provide the parties with an electronic case management tool. Once the parties are in agreement, the online platform will transmit the complaint to the alternative dispute resolution entity that the parties have agreed to use
Ultimately, the purpose of the legislation is to increase consumer confidence and reduce existing barriers in the digital dimension of the market by providing access to simple, efficient, fast and low-cost methods of resolving disputes. While the legislation aims to address the current lack of mechanisms for dispute resolution in cross-border online transactions, it also applies to domestic online transactions. The online platform is set to become operational by the end of 2015.
A similar initiative was announced on May 7, 2012 in B.C. If enacted, Bill 44, the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act (the Bill), would create a tribunal to provide online dispute resolution services in B.C. for various small claims matters and certain real estate matters. The current reading of the Bill provides for three progressive stages for resolving disputes. The first stage would involve party to party negotiations using online tools. The next stage would involve a case manager, who would attempt to facilitate a resolution. The final stage would be a tribunal hearing which would result in a binding decision.
Similar to the E.U. legislation, the aim of the Bill is to provide accessible, speedy, low-cost and informal dispute resolution services. Whether similar initiatives will be implemented elsewhere in Canada remains to be seen.