By Meghna Talwar
The latest survey released by Queen Mary University of London, in collaboration with Pinsent Masons (“the Survey”), highlights the growth of ADR in Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) disputes. The Survey records 67% of the total disputes which are IT related.
Foreshadowing this important development, in 2005, CPR’s IT Committee released its master guide titled “Avoiding and Resolving Information Technology Disputes” which provides detailed information about resolution of IT disputes with the help of ADR mechanisms. The master guide’s 7 chapters provide different methods for addressing IT disputes from avoiding them in the first place to resolving them by arbitration. The first chapter gives companies a head start to set things in place prior to dealing with external parties. The chapter provides cues on how companies can assess, prioritize and define their goals and identify the possibility of dispute in the long run in order to plan their resolution techniques right from the beginning.
Chart 5 of the Survey states that 61% of the disputes related to IT systems are caused due to delay. The survey also mentions that such delay may be caused due to several attributing factors rather than one cause. Chapter 2 of the master guide suggests practices which companies may adopt to avoid delay. The chapter which is titled “Avoiding Disconnect Between Negotiation and Implementation” describes ways in which companies can formulate healthy negotiations with other parties thereby building a strong working relation with them. The chapter also focuses on how parties can develop a good understanding of the project as well as their own interpersonal relations which could ultimately lead to limiting the risk of contracting any disputes.
While Chapter 2 discusses building strong relations, Chapter 3 encapsulates the technique of building a strong project foundation based on strong partnerships. The chapter highlights the advantage of building partnerships at an early stage and describes methods to sustain such partnerships once they are formed. Also, the chapter offers interesting suggestions on conducting workshops with stakeholders to create synergistic relationships.
Often guidelines are limited to dos and don’ts of a process which are purely theoretical in nature. However, Chapter 4 of the master guide carries out case study of an IT dispute which enables companies to understand the practical implications of the master guide. The case study is an interesting concoction of facts and analysis with suggestions from the IT professionals who comprised the CPR IT Committee. Thus, the master guide provides a well-rounded view of IT disputes and the complications involved therein.
The Survey states that 50% of the respondents prefer mediation followed by 47% who prefer arbitration. Hence, there is an earnest intention on the part of the companies to resolve disputes without resorting to courts. However, it would be effective to resolve disputes at a preliminary level. Chapter 5 of the master guide speaks about the use of hierarchical positions to defuse disputes at an early stage. The chapter also emphasis on the need for protecting stakeholders, thereby maintaining a dispute-free atmosphere.
Chapter 6 introduces the concept of appointing a standing neutral. The chapter describes a standing neutral as someone who is appointed as a neutral in advance of any conflict. The appointment of a standing neutral could save the parties a substantial amount of time and cost in a way that the parties would get neutral assistance immediately on detecting a dispute without having to search for it when the dispute arises.
It is understandable that in certain cases it is impossible to avoid disputes despite adopting prevention mechanisms. Proliferation of social media is an example of unavoidable disputes. The Survey recorded 93% disputes arising out of social media attacks and 54% disputes arising out of traditional media attack. Chapter 7 of the master guide describes the dispute resolution program which companies may adopt if avoidance strategies do not work. The Survey points out the importance of Dispute Resolution (DR) policies which companies adopt. It stated that only 25% of the respondent companies did not have a DR policy. Thus, Chapter 7 could be helpful for companies which fall within the 25% bracket and could give the remaining 75% some tips for improvement, if required. The chapter also introduces the CPR Rules on Expedited Technology Dispute Resolution which includes rules for both arbitration and mediation proceedings.
The CPR master guide was introduced long before the introduction of the Survey. However, from the Survey it is quite evident that the issues revolving around IT disputes that were discussed in the manual remain to be a cause of concern, even today. Hence, the master guide proves to be an effective tool for addressing such problems and acts as a catalyst to innovate and introduce mechanisms for resolving IT related disputes.
Meghna Talwar is a fall intern at CPR.