Online platform launched for settling pandemic-related disputes

Local | 28 Sep 2020 6:26 pm

Rental disputes is the top issue handled by an online platform launched in June to arbitrate commercial disputes caused by Covid-19. 

Platform eBRAM - electronic business-related arbitration and mediation - launched the government-supported resolution services targeting SMEs this summer. It handles disputes involving amounts of less than HK$500,000.
 
The platform said it has handled mostly contractual issues so far. 

The top issues are rents and procurement, said eBRAM’s chairman Thomas So Shiu-tsung this afternoon. 

“As far as I know, some companies have issues on face masks trading across countries, and some other on rental contracts.” So said. 

In April, the platform received HK$70 million from the government’s second trance of anti-epidemic funds to incorporate high-tech in the legal procedures, such as artificial intelligence translators, e-contracts and virtual hearings. 

Either one of the parties in a dispute must be a Hong Kong resident or a company. 

Both parties would have to pay HK$200 each for an online registration, which would require clients to verify personal details and fill in basic information about the dispute.

So said the online registration, securely encrypted, would cut down face-to-face meetings and reduce arbitration costs.  

Parties involved would go through mediation or later arbitration. The dispute would be offered an arbitration award if they failed to reach a consensus after the first two stages. 

“We want to take arbitration to another level by turning its conventional mode to a faster and cheaper way in order to expedite access to justice,” said So. 

The one-stop platform aimed at settling one case within six weeks, from mediation, arbitration to an online verdict.

Parties are also free to appoint a panel of lawyers to adjudicate if no agreement is reached. The mediator or arbitrator could hear the case over video meetings and read documents uploaded online before giving a verdict online. 

So said the pandemic has delayed the scheme’s operations due to suspension of businesses and other technical issues when it was first launched in June.

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