We used to buy goods and services in person. We’d introduce ourselves, look each other in the eye, and negotiate the terms of the transaction. If we thought it was a good deal, we’d seal it with a handshake. That handshake was more than a kind gesture – it signaled that if any problem arose, both sides were committed to getting it resolved quickly and fairly. That handshake was our personal trustmark.
Nowadays, it’s harder to close deals with a handshake. We can buy items and services from all over the world with just a few swipes on our iPhones, but when problems arise (as they inevitably do) the next step is often unclear. On the internet it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell the good merchants from the bad merchants, and the processes for resolving disputes are often confusing or hard to find. Customer service can feel like a runaround (e.g. long hold times, unfair refund policies) and formal redress mechanisms that work in the face-to-face world, like the courts, are generally impractical for online purchases — especially when purchases are low value and cross several legal jurisdictions.
That’s why I’m very excited to announce the publication of a new book I’ve written with Amy Schmitz (Professor at the University of Missouri School of Law and Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution) called The New Handshake: Online Dispute Resolution and the Future of Consumer Protection.
The New Handshake focuses on helping businesses, government agencies and consumer protection organizations provide access to remedies for all manner of online transaction problems. Our book proposes a design for a global, cross-border consumer redress system for the online economy. The New Handshake uses Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) to provide fast and fair resolutions for low-dollar claims, such as those in most B2C (Business-to-Consumer) contexts. This revolutionary system is designed to operate independently of the courts, thereby eliminating procedural complexities and choice of legal jurisdictions.
Furthermore, the New Handshake is designed to be integrated directly into the websites where transactions take place. It would provide consumers with free access to remedies, while improving business profits by reducing costs and increasing customer loyalty, while at the same time avoiding the complexities of court.. The New Handshake aims to rebuild trust in the B2C marketplace, and provide a blueprint for the future of online consumer protection.
Who should read the book?
This is not your typical “law” or “business” book. It’s not filled with academic-speak, jargon, and a zillion foot notes. Instead, it’s meant to be easily readable and applicable in a wide variety of contexts. We wrote the book for a wide group of different audiences:
- Online merchants
- Payment providers
- Customer service leaders and staff
- User experience executives and designers
- Trust & Safety and Risk Management teams
- Law and business students
- Consumer advocates
- Policy makers
- ODR systems designers
We are launching the book at the American Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Section conference in San Francisco this week, with a presentation on Thursday, April 20th at 2:45pm entitled “New Perspectives on ODR: A Conversation with the Authors of The New Handshake and Digital Justice” (more to come on this blog regarding Ethan Katsh and Orna Rabinovich-Einy’s important new book Digital Justice soon). We’ll also be doing a session at the ODR2017 meeting in Paris in June. Ultimately, our goal for this book is to serve as a catalyst for a global conversation about the future of online consumer redress, with events around the world. To buy the book, or to stay informed about upcoming events, just visit newhandshake.org – and please don’t be shy in sharing your thoughts on the future of consumer protection and ODR.