ODR IN CONSUMER DISPUTES AND CHALLENGES INVOLVED


This article has been authored by Harshit Tyagi, a second year student at Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur.


Introduction


Online Dispute Resolution or ODR as the name suggests is the mode of resolution of disputes between parties through the use of technology and different types of alternate dispute resolution including mediation, arbitration and other online techniques. Online dispute resolution is an emerging technique to resolve disputes with the consent of both the parties of the suit which indeed is much needed assistance to the overburdened courts as the dispute between the parties is transferred to online mediation or arbitration and hence, the parties can enjoy speedy justice along with minimal costs and in lesser time.


Recognition of ODR in India


The Information Technology Act, 2000 along with the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, aid in the recognition of ODR, the arbitration act mentions that parties can decide the place of the dispute redressal and free to choose the place where they want the hearing to be conducted, a simple interpretation would be that the matters can also be addressed through an online mode in which IT act also plays its role in conducting the hearing in a hassle-free manner.


In India, the dispute redressal platform founds its origin in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (“CPC”) specifically Section 89 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 authorises the use of alternative dispute resolution between parties. Also, Order X Rule 1A of CPC gives the powers in the hands of the court to instruct the parties to the suit to choose any Alternative Dispute Mechanism as per their convenience. The provision does not anywhere specifically mention the word ODR but it mentions any alternative dispute redressal mode which can interpretingly include ODR as well.


There are some instances when the parties opting a liberal point of view have decided the arbitration matters through the means of email in Shakti Bhog Foods Ltd. V. Kola Shipping Ltd. and Trimex International FZE Ltd. v. Vedanta Aluminium Ltd.

Also, In the matter of State of Maharashtra vs. Dr. Praful B. Desai , the Supreme Court agreed to proceed further with the proceedings in an online mode which also implies that the use of ODR can be used when it comes to redressal of the disputes.

In consumer disputes also mediation is proposed as an alternative dispute resolution. Chapter V of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 provides for the establishment, at district, state and national level, of consumer mediation cells for the aim of enabling court-annexed mediation.


Advantages of ODR in Consumer Disputes


It is pertinent for us to look into the advantages of Online Dispute Resolution when it comes to consumer disputes redressal and how it works. ODR is not only limited to consumer disputes but also includes a wide array of disputes arising out of many legislations and provisions which can be settled through online mode. When we talk about consumer disputes, ODR not only governs binary consumer disputes but also covers various types of business models like C2C or B2C. It not only covers disputes arising within the national territory but also governs international conflicts and inter-State conflicts. It will not be wrong to say that technology is not only introducing new trends and luxuries but it can also help in the justice system.


Due to the over burdening of the courts, we sometimes see that the judges have to hear even 20 to 50 cases a day which is not ideal for efficient justice delivery and might explain why most people are unsatisfied even after the hearing of the Apex Court. This new system is definitely a boon for the justice system as this helps in online redressal of disputes between the parties without any hassle and without any wastage of time or money. The system is now an emerging area of redressal of disputes as it takes lesser time and it is more effective when it comes to listening to the parties and their grievances.


Firstly, the parties do not have to travel long distances to present themselves in the premises of the court. This is also advantageous when it comes to the international disputes where parties had to travel thousands of kilometers to attend court proceedings. Secondly, because of the online disputes resolution the parties get instant justice because of the arbitrator or mediator who hears both the parties and arrive at a decision sooner. Also, since parties can hear the cases from their respective homes, there is no need to rent a mediation center to hear the proceedings which ultimately leads to decreased costs on the parties.


Challenges and Issues in ODR When it Comes to Consumer Redressal