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Online Dispute Resolution: Beginnings of an Online Rule of Law


Gregory Chan


The rule of law is a well-established concept among multiple jurisdictions. However, in the online arena, the concept has become fiction. On one end, large corporations such as eBay and Amazon utilise standard-form contracts which govern user actions. On the other hand, small communities of hobbyists have their own unique conventions for governing trade-in online forum-marketplaces. Nonetheless, such divergence of cultures across platforms creates inconsistent and arbitrary governance, resulting in weak dispute-resolution mechanisms which serve to protect consumers. 

This essay focuses on dispute resolution in retail e-commerce. Particularly, it identifies two main platforms - traditional e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon, as well as online ‘forum marketplaces’ such as Reddit. It explores governing practices in these areas, particularly focusing on the dispute-resolution mechanisms aimed at consumer protection. Ultimately, it finds that de-facto arbitration is often conducted by these platform administrators. However, the effectiveness of such decisions is lacklustre, owing to distinct challenges across both platforms and the unique commercial cultures which have arisen. As such, this essay considers the recommendations of the international community and the integration of e-commerce within international trade law. As these may be long-term solutions, the nature of e-commerce and online retail requires inter-state cooperation. Nonetheless, such a mechanism must strive to be accessible and efficient. Therefore, it proposes a more generalised framework to form the beginnings of an online rule-of-law in consumer disputes. To these ends, stakeholders must work together to develop a strong baseline framework and to harmonise online governance in the rapidly growing online arena. 

How to Cite: Chan, G., 2022. Online Dispute Resolution: Beginnings of an Online Rule of Law. Rule of Law Journal, 3.
Published on 05 Jul 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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