|From: James Foskett firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Post Workshop Comments
Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2000 2:38 PM
International Association of
Dear Mr. Secretary:
The International Association of Professional Negotiators wishes to extend our appreciation for the privilege of being a participant in the recent public workshop, "Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Transactions in the Borderless Online Marketplace." We found the dialogue thought provoking and beneficial to all in attendance.
Since the first day of the conference there has been a race by providers to be recognized as the authority in online dispute resolution. We had several press releases announcing new services or proposed guidelines. There were announcements that the American Arbitration Association and the American Bar Association were going to formulate committees to develop guidelines for online dispute resolution. Competition is good, but I left with a sense that participation in the workshop was to protect self-interest and size up the competition. This was evidenced by the presentations of the different online dispute resolution companies that were highlighted during the conference. None of these three could be classified as an alternative dispute resolution firm in the truest sense. The three companies have made a dash to the patent office to protect certain technologies and processes. Depending on the outcome of these patent requests, other Dispute Resolution Professionals may be required to pay license fees to these companies in order to conduct online dispute resolution.
In order for consumers to be protected and given a fair chance in this wonderful online world they must be educated to the fact that they have rights. Their rights should be in simple and understandable terms. They must be educated as to what ADR is and the pros and cons of entering into an adr process. Consumers need to be able to choose their ADR professionals.They must know who the ADR Professionals are and where to locate them. They must be given reasonable fees so as not to burden them. They should enter into a dispute resolution process feeling confident in their understanding of what is going to occur. They need to be able to provide feedback as to whether they think the process was fair or not, and why. They need to know that their agreement, if they reach one, will be honored.
I entered this workshop feeling confident that the ADR providers and the consumers would be best served if the government allowed self-regulation of this industry. I still feel that this can occur. It will mean that those who are racing to protect and escalate their self-interest will have to stop and look back at the focus of our dialogue, the consumer.
I would propose that the government form a partnership with the stakeholders of this dialogue. I recommend this approach because I don't believe that any one group has all the answers. A board could be established to obtain information from website feedback. The board should consist of the FTC, DOC, ADR Professionals, ADR Associations, Consumers and/or Consumer Groups, Non-Profits,ADR Attorneys and interested Foreign Dignitaries.
The Board could meet in different parts of the country to solicit public comments. After a specified period of time, this Board would utilize the information received to formulate proposed guidelines for "Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Transactions in the Borderless Online Marketplace."
This concept would allow stakeholders a voice in the process and minimize the
self-interests. Instead of the government issuing mandatory regulations, they would be an
active partner in the establishment of guidelines. A second workshop could be held to
receive public comment on the proposals and a final draft could be formulated. I would
welcome the opportunity to serve on such a Board.