From Lex Mercatoria to Online Dispute Resolution: Lessons from History in Building Cross-Border Redress Systems
Uniform Commercial Code Law Journal, Vol. 43, 2011
17 Pages Posted: 14 May 2011
Date Written: May 13, 2011
Resolving disputes across borders has never been a straightforward proposition. Nation-states (and before them duchies, bishoprics and city-states) are jealous of their judicial authority and resist ceding jurisdiction to dispute resolution mechanisms not of their making. But cross-border trade is by definition cross-jurisdictional trade; either someone acquiesces (either to the hegemony of a 1st century Rome or 19th century England), or a non-territorial solution must be found. With the resurgence of ‘global’ trade in the 12th century, merchant traders developed a merchant court system of adjudication (Lex Mercortia), that was based on centuries-old codes of conduct. This system of customary law served the needs of merchants for quick and fair resolutions of disputes and served the needs of dukes and kings because it created a trusted system that induced trade (and thus taxes) that would not exist otherwise. Much like the expansion of cross-border trade in the 12th century, the current growth of electronic and mobile commerce has created millions of cross-border disputes that require reliable resolution systems. The continued growth of e-commerce requires trust – from consumers, merchants and government – that cross-border transactions in electronic and mobile commerce will be adjudicated quickly, fairly and cheaply. The lessons learned throughout history can provide helpful guidance in determining how best to build the global resolution systems of tomorrow.
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