FTC, Commerce To Host Public Workshop To Explore Online Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Transactions in the Borderless Online Marketplace to be Explored

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Washington - The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce announced today they will host a workshop to explore the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for consumer transactions in the borderless online marketplace. According to a Federal Register Notice to be published this week, the workshop aims to begin an open discussion of how alternative dispute resolution programs may contribute to fostering consumer confidence without unnecessarily burdening business, and to examine the use of alternative dispute resolution as one means of providing transparent, effective, quick and inexpensive redress for consumers engaging in online transactions.

AGiven the global nature of e-commerce and the small dollar value of most consumer transactions, trying to settle disputes in court is probably not a practical option for most consumers and businesses,@ said William M. Daley, Secretary of Commerce. AI believe ADR can provide this option. We hope this workshop will serve to facilitate the dialogue among industry and consumer groups and the broader public on how best to develop fair and effective alternative dispute resolution programs,@ said Daley.

AConsumers must be confident that the goods and services offered online are fairly represented and the merchants with whom they are dealing, who may be located in another part of the world, deliver on their commitments,@ the notice says. AConsumer confidence also requires that consumers have access to fair and effective redress for problems arising in the online marketplace. At the same time, it is important to encourage the growth of this new marketplace and to avoid unduly burdening businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises,@ the notice says.

AAlternative dispute resolution programs can contribute to consumer confidence in Internet commerce without being unduly burdensome to business,@ said Robert Pitofsky, Chairman of the FTC. AOur workshop will examine the use of alternative dispute resolution as one means of providing transparent, effective, quick and inexpensive redress for consumers.@

The agencies are seeking general comments and answers to 17 specific questions from industry and consumer representatives, the academic community and the public prior to the workshop to help frame the agenda. Questions center around existing alternative dispute resolution programs; challenges to developing alternative dispute resolution programs for online transactions; elements of fair and effective dispute resolution programs; the role of governments if any, in the development of such programs; and the workshop agenda. The agencies also are accepting requests to participate as panelists at the workshop.

Comments and requests to participate must be received on or before March 21. The workshop will be held this spring at a date and location to be announced later.

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Electronic copies of the Federal Register Notice will be available on the
FTC=s web site at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/altdisresolution/index.htm and on the ITA web site at http://www.ita.doc.gov/ita_home/hot.htm. Copies of the Notice will also be available from the FTC=s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; or toll free at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261.

Contact Information

Media Contact:

Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs, FTC
202-326-2181

Pat Woodward
Office of Public Affairs, Office of the Secretary
U.S. Dept of Commerce
202/482-4883

Staff Contact:

Maneesha Mithal
Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC
202-326-2771

Kate Rodriguez
International Trade Administration, U.S. Dept of Commerce
202-482-2145