"peter j gray" firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Thu, Jun 15, 2000 11:36 AM
Subject: ADR for Consumer Transactions in the Borderless OnlineMarketplace
Internet Consumers Organization
June 15, 2000
Re: Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Transactions in the Borderless Online Marketplace
In our initial comment letter on March 21, 2000, we suggested that consumer education on Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) was necessary, since most consumers do not know what forms of ODR are available to them, and they may have difficulty evaluating the pros and cons of each method. The ADR Workshop conducted by the Department of Commerce and the FTC on June 6 and 7 illustrated the variety of approaches to ODR available today, and there are likely to be more alternatives in the future.
One approach to consumer education is provided below.
A Consumer's Guide to Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)
If you have a dispute with a merchant, service, creditor or other party that has not been resolved to your satisfaction, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs - arbitration or mediation - are faster, less expensive and more convenient methods of settling disputes than going to court. Today, both arbitration, where you agree to accept the decision of a neutral third party, and mediation, where you try to reach a mutual agreement to resolve the problem, involve a series of meetings or hearings, and require filing paper statements and claims. This can be impractical and costly, particularly if your dispute involves a seller located in another state or overseas.
Online dispute resolution (ODR) allows consumer complaints to be settled rapidly, conveniently and at less cost than traditional, face-to-face ADR methods. For example, if you are dissatisfied with a product you bought on the Internet from a merchant located anywhere in the world, the dispute can be settled online by a neutral third party. You would not have to attend hearings, hire a lawyer or appear in court. Such disputes can be settled by remote means of communication, including e-mail, fax and phone.
It is becoming common practice for merchants, financial institutions and providers of services to include ADR clauses in their contracts with consumers. Now, with the rapid growth of Internet purchases, online dispute resolution clauses are more likely to be included in consumer contracts. Before you sign a contract with an ODR clause, ask yourself these questions:
If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, ODR is likely to be the fairest and best approach for you to resolve future disputes involving online purchases.
The Internet Consumers Organization appreciates the opportunity to participate in the Workshop on ADR and to provide our comments.
Peter Gray, Chairman