Analysing Online Dispute Resolution of E-Commerce Disputes in Nigeria

INTRODUCTION

Typically, it is said that to purchase an item on an E-commerce platform, is to play the game of chance. This is because most times, consumers are saddled with the responsibility of making payments in advance even when they cannot ascertain the condition or quality of the goods ordered. In addition, because payments on these platforms are made electronically, either by bank transfer or by inputting a card number on the internet, consumer details are usually highly exposed to the constant possibilities of civil and criminal frauds, as there is no exact guarantee that the ordered goods which have been delivered are not defective, or that they might be delivered at all.

In light of the above, the ever-growing presence of E-commerce suggests the possibility of disputes between the parties to the transaction i. e. the consumer and the seller, which will require informal settlement of procedures or dispute resolution through conservative methods or using online medium.

Hence, this article will be addressing the role of online dispute resolution in resolving E-commerce disputes in Nigeria.

Definition of Terms

Meaning of Online Dispute Resolution

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) can be defined as a method of dispute resolution that includes all arbitration activities, in addition to submissions to the arbitral tribunal and all proceedings taking place on the Internet via networks, e-mail, group chats, or online conferences. Therefore, it is an Alternative Dispute Resolution, but conducted online.

Meaning of E-Commerce

E-Commerce which stands for Electronic Commerce has to do with an online platform created for business transactions, where products are purchased and sold online. Simply put, it means an advertising system using electronic media. E-Commerce includes the distribution, sale, purchase and service of a product that is carried out in an electronic system such as the Internet, or other forms of computer network.

Advantages of Online Dispute Resolution in E-Commerce

  1. Presence of Flexibility: This means that it is not governed by strict rules of procedures and evidence. Parties will be given room to take part in a process that makes them comfortable.
  2. Cost of Litigation: The cost of litigation will likely be avoided, especially when the dispute involved is not contentious and of minimal value.
  3. The Amount of Time Spent: The amount of time that will be spent in resolving matters arising, will not be as much as that which will be spent on litigation.
  4. Presence of Confidentiality: Online Dispute Resolution as a method, is mostly agreed upon by parties on the condition that whatever is discussed between parties, remains confidential.

Disadvantages of Online Dispute Resolution in E-Commerce

  1. Inadequate Technology: Parties will be expected to have adequate technology. In other words, Parties with inadequate technology expertise or equipment may not be able to fully participate.
  2. Communication Gap: A communication gap may occur due to some parties lacking abilities to write or the ability to understand the language.

Relevant Laws Applicable to ODR in E-Commerce

The Laws that will be relevant to ODR in E-commerce, will be determined as a result of the matters that will be arising from the transactions. It may vary from cyber fraud, to defective goods. In which case, either all the laws will be applied together or applied separately, as the case may be. Thus, some of the laws that will be applicable include:

  1. Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act: This Act established the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (The Commission), whose role is to protect consumers and promote their interests as well as the welfare of consumers.[1] Section 2 of this Act, specifically indicates that it applies to all commercial activities within, or having effect within Nigeria.[2]
  2. Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc,) Act 2015: The Cyber Crimes Act, Provides an effective and unified legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the prohibition, prevention, detection, prosecution and punishment of cybercrimes in Nigeria, as well as protection of data, intellectual property and privacy rights.[3]
  3. Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: The 1999 Constitution overall, spells out the rights of individuals as regards privacy, which will apply to every aspect and transaction exchanged within the course of business, without exceptions.[4]

BENEFITS OF ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IN NIGERIA

Resolving disputes online is not very known to some countries, while to others, it has been in existence for years. E-commerce has created unique opportunities for cross-border transactions; however, E-commerce has also led to different kinds of disputes and requires a different mode of resolving disputes.

ODR is a combination of Alternative Dispute Resolution as well as Information and Communications Technology, as a mechanism for resolving disputes that were arising online and for which traditional means of dispute resolution were inefficient or unavailable. ODR isn’t limited to disputes arising out of business to consumer online transactions as it is also applicable to a range of disputes arising from interpersonal disputes, Court disputes and interstate conflicts.

ODR services are interactive, web-based services intended to assist parties in dispute in reaching an agreement. Consumers that transacted through electronic means are already accustomed to the internet environment, and expect same to be efficient, time-wise and cost-wise, in comparison to in-person resolution and litigation, especially those involving small-value disputes. ODR could be a potential solution to the upsurge in online-based disputes, and the delayed ability of the judicial procedure to resolve such disagreements timeously.

No ODR system will be used or be successful unless it is convenient to use, provides a sense of trust and confidence in its use, and also delivers expertise or in other words – participation, legitimacy and value.

The rules regulating confidentiality in ADR processes should naturally apply to ODR processes before they are started. Digital signatures using encryption technology are useful to improve the level of security and confidentiality

Online Dispute Resolution has been shown to transform the way disputes are being resolved, in particular, in business-to-consumer transactions. ODR offers a more successful means of resolving E-commerce disputes. Also, it aids in the realm of consumer protection. Therefore, ODR services should be researched, developed and offered in Nigeria. For a developing country like Nigeria, configuring ODR systems is both an opportunity and a challenge.

Opportunity Arising from ODR

  • ODR will have its own Court specialized in disputes that occur in its specific business domain thus, reducing the burdens associated with the slow dispensation of cases in the Nigerian judicial system.

Challenges Associated with ODR

  • The need for implementation could arise as the owners of online businesses are mostly not known personally.
  • The need for technical instrumentation to satisfy the business perspective asking for trust, and the legal perspective which must be in accordance with the most recent practice of the law. In other words, the need to develop a means by which both online business owners and consumers may have access to certain guides that will help protect both the vendor and the purchaser.

Where ODR is not explored, the issue of Jurisdiction may arise in the event the parties want to explore litigation.

CONCLUSION

The Post Covid-19 era has created room for numerous amounts of online transactions to take place. It has also birthed the online proceedings taking place in Nigeria, such as Judgments, etc. Therefore, Online Dispute Resolution will not be outrageous to explore in the event that vendors and customers go against contracts binding them, rather than go through the rigorous work of litigation thereby slowing down access to justice.

SNIPPET

Online Dispute Resolution services are interactive, web-based services intended to assist parties in dispute to reach an agreement. Consumers that transacted through electronic means are already accustomed to the internet environment and expect same to be efficient, time-wise and cost-wise, in comparison to in-person resolution and litigation, especially those involving small-value disputes. ODR could be a potential solution to the upsurge in online-based disputes, and the delayed ability of the judicial procedure to resolve such disagreements timeously.

  1. Section 1 of FCCPA 2018
  2. Section 2 of FCCPA 2018
  3. Section 1 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act 2015
  4. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)

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