Work on a government-backed online dispute resolution system could be under way within weeks according to details of the project published today. The LawTech UK programme today published a request for proposals (RFP) for the 'tech-enabled online dispute resolution platform for SMEs', one of four initial projects announced under the LawTechUK Vision unveiled last month

The intention is to create a voluntary low-cost but enforceable mechanism for settling disputes over matters such as late payments. Participation will require the agreement of both parties, who will not give up their right to go to court. The project is co-chaired by solicitors Mark Beer and Helen Dodds. 

According to a notice published today on the MyTenders website, LawtechUK is looking for a technical delivery partner (individually or through a consortium) to:

- Produce a feasibility study for the development of an online system for SMEs to resolve late payment related disputes and, if needed, to be able to enforce the outcome of the resolution process against the debtor. 'The study would need to establish the user needs and the legal mechanisms for resolution and enforcement, and include a technical design, timeline and business case for development of a full system,' the RFP states.

- Develop a proof of concept to demonstrate the findings and outcomes of the feasibility study, and support the business case.

The Gazette understands that the platform will be financed through user fees; there are also hopes that the technology can be licensed to other jurisdictions. The aim is to have a short list of potential developers by 3 July and for a contract to be placed by 20 July. 

Jenifer Swallow, LawtechUK director, said: 'Legal costs and complexity are a burden for businesses, particularly for SMEs. Our aim is to explore how technology can help, by establishing a platform for the resolution of late payment disputes, addressing the £11.6bn in litigation fees and £50bn in late payments each year. Through our RFP we hope to find a strong partner to help undertake the feasibility study and proof of concept.'