Are Online Arbitrations Discriminatory?

Commercial
Natan Back & Michal Gunzenhauser - March 24, 2022

What is Online Dispute Resolution?
Since the onset of Covid, the world has shifted towards becoming more dependent on technology. Technology is such a key part in our lives and has even filtered into arbitration in the form of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).

ODR is essentially using technology for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). ODR can be seen as a response to globalisation, and essentially allows for dispute resolution without borders, meaning that a person is able to resolve issues with anyone, anywhere, at any time. The usage of ODR has many advantages such as streamlining in the backlog of cases within the court systems, as well as offering different levels of immediacy and interactivity.

ODR will result in faster, more cost-effective resolution of disputes. Parties may also be more amenable to reaching a resolution if negotiating from their homes, versus having to appear at the premises of the mediator or arbitrator.

Is Online Dispute Resolution Easy To Implement?
To implement a successful ODR system, computers for the general public should be accessible to conduct their matters virtually. All that is required for a person to engage in ODR is a stable internet line, making it a very easy system to implement from a technological perspective.

Is ODR Exclusive In South Africa?
While ODR may be cost effective and time-saving, many practical challenges and barriers exist for a successful rollout of ODR in SA. Not every South African has access to a smartphone or computer, or unlimited data. There is an additional issue of computer literacy in South Africa, as a basic understanding of software is required to use the various applications that facilitate online meetings. While load shedding poses a serious issue, many individuals do not have running electricity on a regular basis.

Is South Africa Ready For ODR?
While certain sectors within the population, particularly the private sector, will benefit immensely from the benefits of ODR, SA is not ready for a full rollout. There are socio-economic issues that would need to be addressed, to avoid a system where some, but not all, have access to justice. The economic gap and lack of basic computer skills in SA means that ODR will exclude many individuals from efficient access to justice. Once this is addressed, we may be ready to implement wide scale ODR, and make dispute resolution processes affordable and accessible throughout the country.

Natan Back

Natan Back

Candidate Attorney
Michal Gunzenhauser

Michal Gunzenhauser

Managing Partner

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