REPORT: UK needs online eBay-style court for civil justice

No further buffering Your Honour

Old Bailey Lady Justice

An online court, similar to eBay's disagreement resolution service, should be set up to administer civil justice disputes in the UK, an official report has recommended.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service should establish a new, internet-based court service, known as HM Online Court (HMOC) for disputes under £25,000, said the online dispute resolution report by the Civil Justice Council.

Richard Susskind, chair of the Council's panel for online dispute resolution (ODR), said: "ODR is not appropriate for all classes of dispute but, on the face of it, is best placed to help settle high volumes of relatively low-value disputes – robustly, but at much less expense and inconvenience than conventional courts."

The report cited the 60 million disagreements between traders solved via eBay's online argument settling system.

It suggested the proposal could be funded using a "fraction" of the Ministry of Justice's £75m annual budget to modernise courts over the next five years.

According to the report, The Netherlands and Canada are already making steps toward something similar.

"Our civil justice system is creaking," said the report. "There is widespread concern today that dispute resolution in our courts is disproportionately expensive and insufficiently user-friendly for litigants in person," it said.

The current small claims track in the civil court system is designed for less complex cases - those usually up to a value of £10,000, and personal injury and housing disrepair claims up to a value of £1,000.

If the recommendations are approved by the Civil Justice Council, the Judiciary, and HMCTS, the authors hope to see the HMOC set up in 2017. ®

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