eBRAM launches an innovative and cost-effective online platform to resolve COVID-19 related disputes

30 June 2020

eBRAM International Online Dispute Resolution Centre Limited (“eBRAM”) embarks on a soft launch of an online dispute resolution (“ODR”) platform under the COVID-19 Online Dispute Resolution Scheme (“the Scheme”) commissioned by the Department of Justice of Hong Kong SAR today, aiming to provide a speedy, reliable and cost-effective means to resolve small value disputes to companies, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (“MSMEs”), which have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

As set out in the Scheme, a dispute is applicable if it involves one party from Hong Kong (a resident of Hong Kong or a company registered in Hong Kong),  and the amount in dispute is not more than HK$500,000. The platform has its own video conferencing technology developed specifically for ODR which enables parties to sign electronic ODR agreement and conduct mediation meetings and arbitration hearings online. All data submitted to the platform will be stored in a private cloud hosted in Hong Kong and managed by eBRAM.

Dr Thomas So, Chairman of eBRAM said, “COVID-19 pandemic serves as an unprecedented wake-up call and a catalyst for change in how things are done. During the lockdown, courts were closed, law firms adopted travel restriction. Impact of COVID-19 has not ended in revenue decline, most importantly it caused delay in access to Justice. eBRAM is here to fill the gap, offering a new avenue for resolving disputes.”

Hong Kong has been a respected dispute resolution hub in Asia and globally. Under the Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which was signed in April 2019 and came into operation in October 2019, Hong Kong is the first and, until now, the only jurisdiction outside the Mainland where, as a seat of arbitration, parties to arbitral proceedings administered by specified arbitral institutions (including eBRAM), are able to apply to the Chinese courts for interim measures in the Mainland. Innovation is vital for our increasingly digitalized future.

Ms Teresa Cheng, GBS, SC, JP, Secretary for Justice noted that “Hong Kong's robust legal system is underpinned by the principle of "One Country, Two Systems" as enshrined in the Basic Law and firmly rooted in the rule of law. In the years to come, under the new paradigm of the digital economy, we will continue to leverage our unique strength to enhance our capability in LawTech and endeavour to elevate and solidify Hong Kong's status as an ideal hub for deal-making and dispute resolution.”

ODR proceedings under the Scheme are governed by the eBRAM Rules for COVID-19 ODR Scheme (“the Rules”), which were based on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Collaborative Framework on ODR. Under the Rules, both parties in each case will start with negotiation. Where discord remains, the case will proceed to mediation and if that does not result in settlement, parties may commence arbitration to seek a final and binding arbitral award.

Dr James Ding, Commissioner, Inclusive Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Office, Department of Justice, said, “The Scheme is in line with the ‘Mediate First’ initiative and the newly developed APEC Collaborative Framework on ODR, which is useful for businesses to resolve their disputes online through negotiation, mediation and arbitration in a speedy and cost-effective manner. It is hoped that the Scheme could help those in need to resolve their disputes through a reliable, secured and user-friendly online platform, showcasing at the same time the LawTech capability of Hong Kong and our talented professionals.”

Mr Daniel Lam SBS, JP, CEO of eBRAM, elaborated that “we focus our practice on providing online dispute resolution and dispute avoidance services for the global and local business community. eBRAM will continue developing useful online services for cross-border dispute resolution and this also provides practicing opportunities for emerging talents in Hong Kong. I am particularly grateful to the Proof of Concept (POC) developed by the Logistics and Supply Chain MultiTech R&D Centre Limited (LSCM) that forms the foundation to eBRAM’s platform.” 

The Scheme will provide ample practicing opportunities for young arbitrators and mediators to hone their skills for dispute resolution. eBRAM will provide training to arbitrators and mediators on how to use the platform in July 2020.

Prof Zhao Yun, Head of Department of Law, the University of Hong Kong, said, "The pandemic has facilitated the adoption of ODR by major arbitration centres in the world. I am pleased to see that Hong Kong has responded quickly and positively to the pandemic by introducing this COVID-19 ODR Scheme, which, I believe, it is the first of its kind in the world. This also proves that it was a far-sighted step for Hong Kong to establish eBRAM and promote LawTech and ODR two years ago before the pandemic.”

eBRAM has also established a dedicated panel of neutrals, comprising more than 150 arbitrators and mediators with diverse backgrounds from Hong Kong SAR, Mainland China, and overseas.

About eBRAM
eBRAM International Online Dispute Resolution Centre Limited (“eBRAM”) is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2018 under the laws in Hong Kong, supported by the Asian Academy of International Law Limited, Hong Kong Bar Association, Law Society of Hong Kong, and Logistics and Supply Chain MultiTech R&D Centre Limited.

We are committed to provide a secure, innovative and comprehensive ODR platform, which is low-cost and affordable for MSMEs, thereby facilitating their business operation and also achieving “better access to justice”.

eBRAM has also been actively participating in seminars and workshop organised by APEC Economic Committee, contributing to the development of the ODR Framework and the workplan for promoting the adoption of ODR for or developing an APEC-wide cooperative ODR framework for MSMEs in B2B transactions and using modern technology for dispute resolution and electronic agreement management.

eBRAM headquarters in the West Wing of Justice Place which is part of the Legal Hub where houses a number of reputable international and regional organisations specialising in legal or dispute resolution services. eBRAM also has a branch office in Cyberport which is an innovative digital community in Hong Kong.

For further information of eBRAM, please visit www.ebram.org.

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