Businesses can now settle disputes using digital platform

MEMBERS of the business community with differences to settle now have the option of doing so through a digital platform, removing the need to go through the courts and saving time and money in the process.

This is being done through the Jamaica International Arbitration Centre Limited’s (JAIAC) I-Neutral Jamaica platform, said to be the first and only online dispute resolution platform in the Western Hemisphere.

Developed by Jamaicans, I-Neutral provides effective, third-party-assisted options for resolving disputes without the need to enter a courtroom, and has a developed full-spectrum application capacity for dealing with domestic and international disputes. The services offered include mediation, conciliation, facilitated contract renegotiation, neutral evaluation, adjudication, arbitration and restorative justice from a panel of experienced domestic and international arbitrators. Foreign lawyers are also allowed to appear in arbitral proceedings.

Speaking during the official launch of the platform yesterday, Datuk Professor Sundra Rajoo, director of the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC), said the launch of the platform is an important and revolutionary milestone.

“Jamaica is representing the Caribbean and has taken the lead in this area,” he said, noting that with the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic on countries the innovation could not have come at a more apt time. He said the flexibility of the portal, which allows collaboration with other centres and institutes, was also another plus.

President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Lloyd Distant Jr said the introduction of the digital platform for online dispute resolution and arbitration is “a huge step forward”.

“It is no secret that the Jamaican courts take much too long to deal with cases brought before it. It is also a very expensive process. What we know is that when commercial disputes arise, dispute resolution, arbitration and mediation can be relied on to resolve them as efficiently and as economically as possible,” he pointed out.

Said Distant: “The annals of Jamaica’s history are populated with stories of Jamaican businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, that have been severely disadvantaged by a not-very-efficient legal system, which is unfortunate, but the JAIAC has provided a more efficient process for resolving disputes in the roll-out of I-Neutral. This platform is yet another innovation that will be of great benefit to Jamaican businesses and to the Jamaican business community in general.”

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck in his comments said the innovation is another measure which will reduce the backlog in the island’s courts.

“Previously, after careful review of the system for the administration of justice in Jamaica, I came to the considered conclusion that the court system would be greatly assisted by complementary, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms,” Chuck said.

“I have become even more convinced that complementary ADR services are required if the need for timely and efficient outcomes is to be prioritised. I strongly believe that alternative justice services is a major solution towards supporting the reduction of case backlog and daily heavy caseload in our courts, and also to address the underlying social issues which give rise to tension, conflicts and crime in our communities,” he stated.

“Today’s development is welcome and is a significant private sector-led step in the right direction. I believe it could soon become a dispute resolution tool of choice in the public sector,” the justice minister added.

The JAIAC was first established in November 2015 as a not-for-profit company. It provides support for the conduct of domestic, regional and international arbitration, mediation, adjudication, neutral evaluation and other services under its own rules. It as well administers and provides support for ad hoc arbitrations.

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