As we all shop online more than ever before, new forms of online dispute are becoming an increasing problem for today's consumers, and the risks of exposure to scams and rogue traders are at an all-time high.
To address this growing ‘digital justice gap’, the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society (FLJS), partner institution of the Oxford One Belt One Road Programme (OBOR), invited an international group of experts from the UN, consumer representatives, and academia on 7 November to consider how to overcome the failure of traditional legal institutions to adequately serve this new digital world of cross-border commerce.
The roundtable discussion was opened at Wolfson College by Professor Denis Galligan, Director of Oxford OBOR, who introduced the authors of a new book on Digital Justice – Professor Ethan Katsh, Director of the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution who sits on the Expert Advisory Board of Oxford OBOR, and Dr Orna Rabinovich-Einy, Faculty of Law, University of Haifa. They illustrated the overwhelming magnitude of the problem, with Chinese Internet commerce giant Alibaba handling over 100 million disputes alone.
As Professor Katsh indicated: “Conflict is a growth industry: we can’t rely on our courts to handle the huge volume of online disputes any more.”
Dr Janet Hui Xue, Research Associate of Oxford OBOR (Digital Economy & Society and Consumer Rights Beyond Boundary) as well as the Sydney Cyber Security Network, delivered an illuminating presentation on cybersecurity law in China and the limits of transparency in e-commerce dispute resolution.
Dr Ying Yu, Deputy Director of Oxford OBOR and Director of the FLJS Consumer Rights in China Programme, provided an in-depth examination of how online resolution efforts may affect the confidence and trust of consumers. Dr Yu's talk focused on Consumer Dispute Resolution (CDR) vis-à-vis Consumer Protection Law 2014, as well as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) bodies, citing the example of the Hangzhou Internet Court Jurisdiction.
Arnau Izaguerri Vila, Legal Officer at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) working with OBOR team on the Best Practice of Consumer Redress project, gave evidence of the importance of fostering consumer confidence in developing countries in particular. He cited research showing that the most common reason for people not to shop online is a lack of trust – which is a significant problem for developing countries that aspired to increase online commerce as part of their policies of economic development. Distrust of cross-border redress, lack of clarity on protections afforded, and lack of cross-border cooperation are significant obstacles to e-commerce in developing countries.