ODR history was made this week when a court case, issued in the new Online Civil Money Claims Court for England and Wales, was resolved by use of an online tool that enabled the parties to participate in an advanced version of blind bidding. After 3 months in the court process, including an unsuccessful telephone mediation, the parties were able to settle the dispute (over unpaid fees for a counselling course) within an hour of first use of the blind bidding tool.
Showing the bidding slider for both parties in a roleplay case
The tool used was SmartsettleONE developed by ICan Systems Inc of British Columbia and was introduced to the parties by leading ODR expert, Graham Ross, and provided through his website at www.TheResolver.com. The use of SmartsettleONE was not part of the current online court process, which currently just offers an e-filing facility.
SmartsettleONE enables the parties to make offers and counter-offers. This is done by moving a flag along a slider. Two flags are provided. The position of the green flag is seen by the other party. But the position at any time of the yellow flag is not seen by the other party and is effectively a blind bid. These flags can be moved up or down any number of times until a resolution is reached. There are various algorithms operating that learn the bidding tactics and priorities of the parties employed and help 'nudge' the parties into an agreed settlement without at any time revealing their secret bids. The settlement figure will also be one within the agreed range for each party but one of the algorithms will reward the party who makes more effort to settle. This significantly reduces the time spent in the usual negotiation 'dance' with parties sitting on offers that are less than their bottom lines.
Graham is helping design configurations of an advanced version of another Ican Systems product, Smartsettle Infinity, which, in addition to the blind bidding tool, enables multiple issues to be applied as conditions of a payment offer, eg payment over a period of time, or withdrawal of an adverse consumer review, or, in a B2B dispute, agreement to continue doing business together.
Graham says- "These tools are a great example of how ODR should be looked at not as a threat to the work of mediators, but as a great opportunity to improve the service they provide. They can be used both in in-person mediation as well as distance mediation.
Mediators who take Graham's distance training course in ODR at www.ODRtraining.com can learn how SmartsettleONE and other systems operate, making use of them in roleplay.