Online Dispute Resolution: Advantages and Disadvantages

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is a voluntary confidential mediation process in which disputants communicate online to resolve a conflict. Nonetheless, as this form is still in its early stages, many questions its reliability and its future. Hence, this essay will first look at the advantages, then it will address the disadvantages, and conclude by considering the future of cyber-mediation.

There are numerous advantages to Online Dispute Resolution. Firstly, some argue that cyber-mediation ‘can provide substantial savings when compared with traditional litigation which can be extremely costly’. Many turn to mediation in hopes to reach an agreement before attending court, as less money would be spent by parties, unlike traditional litigation. Savings may also result as online phone calls and teleconferencing are free of charge. Therefore it reduces the financial burden of lower-income individuals seeking support. Secondly, this form of mediation can be more convenient than the traditional approach. It is argued that the ‘benefit of online mediation is that the disputants do not have to travel lengthy distances to negotiate’. Thus, rather than organizing a meeting place, and sitting face to face to discuss the matter, there are online platforms that are readily available. On the contrary, some view this as a downside where Joel Eisen argues, “electric communication is no substitute for the ability of face-to-face.”, implying that it is less effective. Nevertheless, these are examples that canvas the benefits of ODR. 

Conversely, there are also disadvantages to this. The lack of individuals physically presenting together is not only difficult for parties to communicate but also for mediators. They have less control over the temper and emotional management of both sides, as Eisen stated, “given the profession’s current orientation to listening and processing oral information, they would find it largely impossible to translate their skills to the online setting.” They are also unable to observe ‘intuitive cues of body language, facial expression, and verbal tonality that are part of the face-to-face mediation process.’ Hence ODR can be strenuous when seeking a desired outcome if mediators cannot properly perform their role. Furthermore, access to these online platforms may differ between individuals. According to Eisen, “cyberspace is not a ‘mirror image’ of the physical world”, meaning that not all are considered when forming this platform. It may defer those less familiar with the latest technological developments, individuals who don’t have access to the internet, particularly the older generation, as well as those unfamiliar with elaborate written communications. Therefore, ODR still possesses flaws and should consider of all cultures, ages, disabilities, incomes, education, geographical location, and so on. 

Despite this, there is a robust accord that the majority of cyber issues will be overcome as technology develops. Whilst it is too early to predict the future of ODR, there are already theories that offer improvements to cyber-mediation. For example, “as courts come online, perhaps there is greater scope, too, for courts to be better connected to the network of various dispute resolution and parties involved.” Whereas, a confidentiality concern remains in which Katsch has mentioned the concern over the protection of confidential material in ODR. Instead, electronic files are created after cyber-mediation consequently parties could potentially “print and distribute email communications easily and without the knowledge of the other party”, a major hindrance when attempting to resolve disputes. Therefore, whilst the future implementation of cyber-mediation seems promising, those involved in ODR need to ensure that no disputes are able to appear in a legal context.

To conclude, online dispute resolution not only demonstrates many preferred traits but also appears to be heavily relied on for future disputes, however as it is still early, it should be refined alongside technological developments to become an effective mediation apparatus.


  1. Betancourt, Julio Cesar, and Zlatanska, Elina, ‘Online Dispute Resolution (ODR): What Is It, and Is It the Way Forward?’ (2013) Arbitration 79:3, 256-264.
  2. Clark, Eugene, George Cho, and Arthur Hoyle, ‘Online Dispute Resolution: Present Realities, Pressing Problems and Future Prospects’ (2003) International Review of Law, Computers & Technology 17:1, 7-25.
  3. Goldberg, Jordan, ‘Online alternative dispute resolution and why law schools should prepare future lawyers for the online forum’ (2014) Pepperdine Dispute Resolution 14:1-25. - Goodman, Joseph W, ‘The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Dispute Resolution: An Assessment of Cyber-Mediation of Web Sites’ (2006) 9(11) Journal of Internet Law 1,11-16.
  4. Mania, Karolina, ‘Online dispute resolution: The future of justice’ (2015) International Comparative Justice 1:1, 76-86.
07 July 2022
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