Libertatem Magazine

ODR in Consumer Disputes and Challenges Involved

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What types of dispute resolution techniques are involved in ODR?

ODR or Online Dispute Resolution as the name suggests is the mode of resolution of disputes which includes resolving disputes through the use of technology and also different techniques including mediation arbitration and other online techniques which are used to resolve disputes between the parties without measuring poles of the courts. Online dispute resolution is something very emerging technique to resolve disputes when it comes to justice delivery system with the consent of both the parties of the suit which indeed is a big help to the overburdened courts as the dispute between the parties is transferred to online mediation or arbitration and hence party will enjoy speedy justice along with minimal costs and of courts in lesser time. 

Advantages of ODR in consumer disputes

It is very pertinent for us to look into the advantages of online dispute resolution when it comes to consumer disputes redressal and how it works. ODR is not only limited to consumer disputes but also includes a wide array of disputes governing many legislations and provisions which can be settled through an online mode. When we talk about consumer disputes ODR not only governs binary consumer disputes but also covers various types of business models also like C2C or B2C for that matter. It also governs international conflicts and interstate conflicts and not only restricts within the boundaries of the national territory. It is rightly said by someone that technology is not only coming with a new trend and luxuries but also it can help in the justice system. Due to the overburdening of the courts, we sometimes see that the judges have to hear 20 to 50 cases a day this clearly shows that how can a judge be more dedicated to his work when 20 or 50 cases are waiting in line to hear on the same day that’s why most people are unsatisfied even after the hearing of the Apex Court. This new system is a boon for the justice system as this helps in the online redressal of disputes between the parties without any hassle and without any wastage of time or money. The system is now an emerging area of redressal of disputes as it takes lesser time and it is more effective when it comes to listening to the parties and their grievances. 

Now the parties do not have to travel long distances to make their presence in the premises of the court this is a very big help or support to the international disputes when parties had to travel thousands of kilometers to make their presence in the court. Second as speedy justice because of the online disputes resolution the parties get instant justice because of the consented arbitrator or mediator which hears both the parties and hence drives on to the conclusion. Also, since parties can hear the cases from their respective homes only there is no need to rent a mediation center to hear the proceedings ultimately lead to decreased costs on the parties.

Challenges or issues in ODR when it comes to consumer redressals.

It is well said by our ancestors that if something has an advantage then it has certain disadvantages to like with the introduction of machines and new technology in the agricultural sector or any sector for that matter the workforce or the man force it’s no longer an important aspect in today’s world. Similarly, ODR has certain disadvantages too to start with the first disadvantage is that the virtual or the online resolution of dispute while I am saying this I mean there is no medium better than face-to-face interaction and then understanding the mind of the parties. “There is almost universal agreement that mediation is most effective if the parties to the dispute are physically present before the mediator.” Online interaction is scary for some people because of the foreign mode of interaction. In a nation like India, there is a lack of awareness when it comes to technology and when it comes to seeking the redressal of the dispute through an online mode most people would have the conception that it is not that effective because of the habit of physical hearing. 

Other disadvantages include jurisdiction matters in online redressal of the disputes it is a condition of ambiguity when it comes to deciding the jurisdiction of a particular matter and if the online dispute resolution techniques do have jurisdiction in a particular matter or not. Also has a limitation when it comes to the online redressal of the disputes because not every dispute can be resolved online.

The other concern is the confidentiality or the privacy of the formation of the individuals because it is an online mode there are certain chances of breach or infringement in the privacy of the individuals and it is more prone to hacking. 

Also, there are some cross-cultural issues such as language or behaviour for matter when a dispute is resolved in and physical mode then the mediator or the arbitrator always keeps in mind the language along with the ethical behaviour which should be maintained dealing with the parties and hearing their problems but when it comes to online hearing sometimes people are not that much serious about it or there may be disturbances because of their Internet connections either or other surroundings for that matter.

In India internet is not accessible to every citizen and a consumer is a person who is available in every street every slum every village and every city in India and it is potentially not possible for everyone to use the Internet and reserve justice. 

There is also a possibility of a breach of duty when it comes to online redressal of the disputes by either the mediator person or the parties by not taking it seriously. 

These are some of the issues pertaining to consumer disputes and their redressal when it comes to the Online Dispute Resolution techniques, undoubtedly the ODR is possibly the fastest and the most effective method of seeking justice but the awareness and essential amends are needed to be done so as to proper execution of the technology. 

Shortfalls in the ODR mechanism 

The ODR settlements do not find their place under Section 75 of the Accident Compensation act 1985, which is also a hindrance to the victim of the wrong which has taken place. 

Second is the mediations or the Online Dispute Resolution mechanism does not have any central power or authority from which they can govern upon they are working or regulating as of now in an ad-hoc manner and thus this area is open for criticism and the use of private players according to their whims and fancies. 

The third is there are no sole criteria or there are no established criteria for the selection of the arbitrator or mediator or the person who shall be negotiating the process and therefore the disputes regarding the selection of the middle person come into being and we often see parties not adhering to the rules and regulations because they are not happy with the mediator or maybe they are not satisfied by their verdicts. For instance, the Companies (Mediation and Conciliation) Rules, 2016, under Rule 4, does not include institutions as qualified for empanelment. Similarly, Delhi High Court’s Mediation and Conciliation Rules, 2004 only recognize persons and professionals and not institutions

Fourth is that there is no specific organization or a team or a committee which shall be treating them professionals who are going to be the little person in the mediation or arbitration or negotiation there is nothing known as training while deciding the mediator and the professionals are chosen upon either their past experiences according to their respective ages and the Seniority should not be the sole criterion for deciding the arbitrator or the dispute resolution professional. 

In European Union or the European nations, there is a sole committee which deals with consumer disputes and provides a free hand when it comes to the ODR technique to deal with consumer disputes. Another similar effort has been made in Mexico where the Office of the Federal Prosecutor for the Consumer, also referred to as the Federal Consumer Protection Agency (Profeco) is responsible for managing Concilianet, an online dispute resolution process to address complaints of consumers against merchants of goods and services. Under this system, consumers can file complaints online or in-person and the Agency will then carry out conciliation either telephonically or over the internet.

Take of Judiciary 

In the matter of Grid Corporation of Orissa Ltd. v AES Corporation , the Supreme Court opting for a liberal point of you nourished its judgment giving the opinion that if the parties can sit in their home and write their complaints in a technological form then there is no need to set physically in space together. 

State of Maharashtra v Praful Desai, in this case, the Supreme Court held that virtual reality can be called real reality and the use of technology hence as for the benefit of the society.


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