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Accredited online dispute resolution services: creating European legal standards for ensuring fair and effective processes

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The aim of this article is to consider the need for regulation within the European Union (EU) in order to close the existing gap between the need for effective and fair online dispute resolution (ODR) mechanisms in electronic commerce and their actual use. At present, ODR relies on soft laws and self-regulation rather than legislative intervention. Yet, some aspects, such as mandatory ODR clauses included in electronic contracts and the enforceability of online awards, need to be supported by legislation and cannot be left exclusively to self-regulatory initiatives. This article suggests that establishing clear procedural standards in the ODR field will increase awareness as well as provide the necessary tools for promoting those ODR schemes that offer quality services by accrediting them with a pan-European trustmark. The article proposes that this can be achieved through a European directive, which will contribute to the development of ODR within the EU by allowing accredited ODR providers to offer mandatory services and issue enforceable decisions. Whether many disputes will be resolved online is not a matter of 'If', but of 'When' and 'How'. The question of exactly when is not of great importance; time will tell. The question of 'How' is what we should focus on. (Lodder 2006: 153)
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Keywords: alternative dispute resolution; consumer protection; online dispute resolution; regulation; small claims

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University College Cork, Ireland

Publication date: 01 October 2008

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