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On Line Dispute Resolution For Business (Book Review)

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ODR For Business by Colin Rule is an important book, being only the second book yet published for the general marketplace about On Line Dispute Resolution. In addition, the book is application oriented, rather than theoretical, as was Katsh and Rifkin’s seminal work, On Line Dispute Resolution: Resolving Conflicts In Cyberspace. Mr. Rule takes the reader through many examples of the application of ODR to many different venues.

The book is divided into three parts: Part 1: What is ODR?, Part II: ODR and Business and Part III: Designing Effective ODR For Business: Envisioning the Fourth Party. Part 1 explains the concepts of ODR. The basic definition of ODR being that any mediation, arbitration or negotiation, which is done in part or in whole over the Internet. The basic types of existing tools for ODR are explained and some uses of those tools are elucidated.

In Part II, the author shows how ODR can be utilized in dispute resolution in a plethora of different types of businesses. For example, the Insurance Industry, the Health Care Industry and the Labor & Employment dispute resolution venues are just some examples. Also quite interestingly, Mr. Rule points out some applications of ODR that did NOT work. This information is especially useful to those trying to decide how and where to apply the ODR methods to disputes.

In Part III, Mr. Rule discusses many basic components needed to build an ODR system for business. The technology, standards setting and Global environment are discussed. The section allows people interested in developing such a system, or even interested in using such a system to understand the elements that they would want in such a system, and why they need them.

In the book, Mr. Rule has a particularly good chapter on the use of ODR in Government issues or ‘Public Disputes.’ These are often development issues or environmental issues. Mr. Rule insightfully states the following: “Hybrid processes that utilize technology when other communication channels (such as public meetings) break down may be the most appropriate use of ODR in the majority of multiparty matters.” This concept of the use of technology as an augmentation, rather than as a replacement, is a much better manner in which to conceive of the benefits of ODR.

Additionally, the author states in his section on designing an ODR platform the following incisive and revealing comment: “The real benefits from ODR come from the new capabilities of the environment, and if designers simply mimic face-to-face processes online they will miss out on many of the benefits ODR can offer parties and neutrals.” Thus the idea is to make ADR better with ODR. Not to supplant traditional methods with new ODR approaches, but to improve overall results by using ODR as yet another tool in the mediator’s “Tool Kit.”

Mr. Rule postulates that if in fact, more and more transactions are accomplished through Internet communication, then slowly, the need for ODR will become virtually mandatory. Without some system, which provides parties that could be in any location in the world a method of settlement, the integrity of doing business through the internet will be impacted. The book offers a good source of information as to how one would utilize ODR in a multitude of different situations and how ODR helps to expedite resolution of those disputes.


Jon Linden

Jon Linden is a Mediator, Trainer and Business Consultant. He holds an BS in biology and an MBA, both from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Jon spent 20 years in the Food Service Distribution business, where he was the COO and Sr. V-P of a Distribution Center of a major… MORE >

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