January 24 2017
PARLe : new option for consumers and advertisers
Last November, a new platform for assisting online dispute resolution was launched by the Consumer Protection Office: PARLe (from plateforme d’aide au règlement des litiges en ligne) gives an opportunity to consumers and retailers to settle online and free of charge disputes that oppose them. PARLe was developed by the Université de Montréal’s Cyberjustice Laboratory and tailored to the Consumer Protection Office’s specific needs.
If consumers wish to use PARLe, they must first contact the Consumer Protection Office to obtain access. The Consumer Protection Office will then determine if the use of the platform by the consumer is appropriate in his or her specific situation. Certain conditions must be met, for example:
- It must be a civil dispute (e.g. application of guarantees, delivery of goods, fitness of the good or service received);
- The dispute must involve a participating retailer;
- The consumer is comfortable using online tools.
In fact, this platform can only be used if the involved retailer has chosen to participate in the program. When the platform was launched in November, about twenty retailers had chosen to participate, including big-box stores, furniture and household appliance retailers, used car dealers and other retailers in the travel industry.
In general, the procedure proposed by PARLe is divided in three steps. First, the consumer and retailer are invited to each fill out an electronic form in which they describe the relevant facts and suggest solutions to the conflict. Then, negotiations take place. If these fail, the parties can move on to the third step, mediation. At this stage in the procedure, a third party may be invited to participate to promote discussions between the parties and help reach a settlement. If, in the end, the parties are unable to reach a settlement, they can then decide to send their case to an arbitrator or to the court for a decision.
PARLe is part of the effort to develop alternative solutions to increase the public’s access to justice. Use of information technologies is a cornerstone of this effort. Consumers are more and more conscious of their rights and are looking for tools to help them exercise these rights. With today’s seasoned and technologically-skilled consumers, we can expect some relief for the courts even if the number of disputes increases. However, retailers and advertisers will have to participate in large numbers to this new platform to make its effect on the legal system significant. The platform’s impacts will be closely followed.