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We will use this space to share with you the latest developments on what we do at Youstice. We will also invite various experts to speak their mind about a number of topics, such as online dispute resolution, as well as the latest trends in issue management, e-commerce and technology, among others.

Interview with Vincent Tilman: There is no “one size fits all” dispute resolution process

Vincent Tilman is bMediation’s Principal Advisor and has been developing mediation expertise for over 10 years, particularly in the area of commercial disputes in an international environment. Vincent’s most recent mediated disputes related to construction, real estate, Information technology and inheritance. How does he see the role of ODR in Belgium and what are the biggest challenges his dispute resolution efforts face nowadays?

1. You have been helping ADR come to life for quite some time. What have you learned on that journey?

My very first attempt to develop an ODR service, back in 1999, was driven by the ambition to provide a unique solution to all e-commerce related disputes. The market was definitely not mature for such a service at that time. Or I did not have the leverages to market it. A number of initiatives flourished along the years but very few reached sustainability. There is no “one size fits all” dispute resolution process. That sounds pretty evident but this complicates significantly the emergence of online dispute resolution services at large scale. The ones that reach success are adapted to niche market.

2. What appealed to you when it comes to mediation in the first place?

Efficiency and pragmatism! I can hardly understand that people queue months or years to get someone to decide on their personal or business case. Judges can simply not take a decision based on optimalization of parties’ interests, he or she must take a decision based on the law. And there are so many strings to pull for reaching a solution to a conflict. Law is only one of these. Moreover, it is so satisfactory to great the parties for reaching a settlement after a couple of hours of mediation.

3. What in your opinion is the real value of ODR/ADR for retailers and consumers?

I believe that ODR/ADR is a chance for the retailers and consumers to communicate in a new environment with the involvement of a specialist. In most case, the neutral will propose or recommend a solution. The process is cost effective in a context of low value disputes. For a retailer, it is always better to see customers ventilating frustration in a confidential environment rather than on social networks! For a consumer, it is so important to have someone to address and get neutral information on his/her right.

4. Can you shed some more light on how the EU law is being adapted in the Belgium?

For once, Belgium has been quick in implementing the ADR Directive in Belgian law. A residuary ombudsman is providing services for free since June 2015 and the feedback is pretty good. A framework is foreseen for the creation of “private” ombudsman. As long as they respect quality and independence criteria, they are accredited by the ministry. Criteria are pragmatic, the objective of the legislator was clearly to encourage federations of businesses to take their responsibilities. Since the legislation was implemented, about 10 ombudsman were recognized (telecommunication, finance, notaries, insurance, construction, energy, travels, auto, post). The retail sector remains uncovered, which means that these complaints go to the public ombudsman.

5. Can you summarize the activity of your organization, bMediation?

bMediation is the Belgian leader for commercial mediation. A lot has to be done to promote mediation in Belgium and a large part of the budget goes for research and communication activities. It was created in 1998 under the name BBMC, is the fruit of an initiative of the Brussels Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the French Bar of Brussels, the Dutch Bar of Brussels and the Belgian Institute for Company Lawyers. I’m proud of being part of the team.

6. How many complaints do you receive annually, and how do you cope with them?

bMediation is focusing on B2B disputes. Usually, parties come to us when they have already agreed to settle the case through mediation. Therefore, we don’t refer to complaints but to dispute cases or dossiers. So far, we haven`t published figures about number of dossiers managed by the Centre. We have a case administrator and a panel of approximately 100 mediators.

7. What is the most curious complaint you’ve yet received?

Recently, we received a demand from a lawyer to open a case and to close it straight away without appointing a mediator. Bound by a mediation clause, the lawyer was convinced that mediation would not help to progress on the case. This might be true but the tone of the lawyer convinced me to contact the client directly and after a 5 minute discussion we agreed to hold a mediation session. The lawyer was very unhappy about my initiative but I consider that we have a duty to inform.

8. How do you see ODR in 5 years from now?

ODR will be boosted by the ADR Directive. Professionals are obliged to consider whether affiliate to an ADR provider or to rely on the residuary service provided. This means a serious increase of awareness and cases. While most of the ADR still rely on email and phone, the most successful one will have to automate part of the process and ODR platforms should benefit.

9. What do you think of Youstice? How does it change the ODR landscape?

Youstice provides a simple interface for assisting consumers and retailers involved in a dispute. This is exactly what I need for one of my projects, where I want to provide a cost effective solution for small value disputes. But Youstice’s team is flexible and innovation oriented. Youstice understood that there is no “one size fits all” process and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more of its “savoir faire” conquering the ADR market.

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