Ways to use online dispute resolution in light of the coronavirus restricting travel.

Is online dispute resolution due to the coronavirus issues? The Coronavirus has severely impacted international travel and world trade. Many people have cancelled trips overseas, especially to the Far East and companies are enforcing policies restricting travel.

In these challenging times when face to face meetings cannot take place the use of video conferencing and the good old-fashioned telephone become ever more important to keep channels of communication open.

I have generally seen an uptake in the use of ODR (online dispute resolution) and telephone mediation in recent times and I expect it to increase further for international disputes.

Either using a secure platform such as Zoom, or the telephone is a cost-effective and time-efficient method of resolving a dispute outside of court or arbitration. It avoids the need to travel from the desk. But does it work?

Absolutely the answer is “yes”, provided the parties are comfortable with it (and usually they are from the outset or they quickly become so as the session develops).

So how does it work? Well, the answer is, similar to a face to face mediation. Private conversations with the mediator take place, and joint discussions can be facilitated if wished and desirable. The usual rules of confidentiality apply. Advisors can be at the same location as their clients (preferable) or join from a different place. They can also be available only if needed (a cost-efficient approach, usually meaning they step in towards the end to draft and agree the settlement agreement).

The aim of the mediation is to agree and sign a Settlement Agreement by the end of the session. This can be done electronically. Sometimes a template is prepared and circulated beforehand to make the best use of time in the session.

My sympathies are with those affected directly or indirectly by the Coronavirus. Our roles in business are to ensure we do all we can to cooperate with efforts to contain spreading the virus. Resolving conflict by telephone or Zoom with the assistance of a mediator is one way to do so, and perhaps by doing so to further “peace through world trade” (the motto of my livery company The Worshipful Company of World Traders) along the way. Something that is to be aimed for even more today than ever before.

Rebecca Attree

Civil and Commercial and Workplace Mediator.

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