US and Canadian judges could arbitrate remotely on UK disputes if a north American online service takes off across the Atlantic.
Toronto-based eQuibbly has assembled a team of judges from across the US and Canada and says it can issue a legally binding decision on a case within two weeks.
The venture, founded in 2012, is now looking to expand into the UK.
Founder and president Lance Soskin (pictured) told the Gazette that he has held initial talks with UK companies about offering arbitration services and the company may add a UK-based judge to its roster in the coming months.
In the meantime, Soskin said contract law is similar enough on both sides of the Atlantic to persuade UK parties to entrust their case to a service in North America.
Existing UK arbitration laws and the New York Convention on foreign arbitral awards, to which the UK is a signatory, make decisions enforceable even where they are reached outside the country, he pointed out.
Soskin said that corporate clients are demanding a fixed-fee service that allows them to keep their business matters confidential.
‘Apart from the convenience of being able to settle a dispute from the comfort of your home or office, arbitration is becoming popular because suing someone in court is a public process where information about a business or someone’s personal affairs is available for anyone to see.
‘Not so with arbitration – it’s possible to avoid unwanted publicity and to protect confidential information from prying eyes.’
The service mostly relies on instant chat discussions between the judge and the parties, although video conferencing is possible if the judge deems it necessary.
Fees depend on the number of pages of documentary evidence and witnesses per party.
Clients pay C$149 (£82) for up to five pages and no witness evidence, rising to C$449 (£246) for more complex cases where up to 40 pages are uploaded and two witnesses per party are allowed.