Nancy E. Ellis
P.O. Box 675
June 29, 2000
Mr. Donald Clark, Secretary
Re: Post Workshop Reply - Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Transactions in the Borderless Online Marketplace
Dear Mr. Clark,
Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in the June 6/7 workshop on Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Transactions in the Borderless Online Marketplace. It was very informative and presented a wide array of opinions on a very complex issue. I think that the information shared by all panelists was very valuable, and I would like to be included in any future programs on this topic offered by your agency.
Several distinct themes emerged during this workshop. The most prevalent of course, was the need to protect consumers on the World Wide Web while building consumer confidence in e-commerce transactions. The notion of caveat emptor has re-emerged as an important concept when dealing with the global nature of e-commerce transactions. Alternative dispute resolution (or on-line dispute resolution) is recognized as having potential and will no-doubt have a vital role in the future of e-commerce. However, as discussed at the workshop, there is no isolated solution; each must be combined with other initiatives as summarized below:
Protecting Consumers On-line
It is apparent from the workshop discussions that there is not one easy solution to the reconciliation of on-line consumer disputes. However, the ideas brought out at the forum, as outlined above, provide a vital framework where most, if not all, disputes could be resolved.
I am a little concerned about the issue of cost and funding. The e-commerce dispute resolution infrastructure has not yet been fully developed and will no-doubt be costly. Mr. Stevenson pointed out at the workshop that "there are no free lunches." I would be very cautious of any business or organization (without government sponsorship) that can claim to handle this major problem for free or on a pro-bono basis. The magnitude of consumer complaints is extensive. Even though the dollar amount in controversy for a particular dispute may be very small, when consumers feel that they are being taken advantage of they tend to get very emotional. The resolution of a consumer complaint can be very labor intensive and time consuming. I am not sure who should bear the cost of this mechanism or how costs should be allocated.
Thank you again for providing such an important workshop and for establishing a valuable dialogue on an important subject. Please contact me if you require any additional information or if I can be of any other assistance.