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Ebay’s former online dispute resolution team targets UK after $5m cash injection


Ross: investment is a real turning point for ODR

An online dispute resolution (ODR) business that spun out of eBay is heading to the UK after receiving a $5m cash injection from venture capitalists.

Modria is setting up its European operation in the UK, where it will be headed by solicitor Graham Ross.

Mr Ross is a longstanding pioneer of ODR in the UK, and also created Lawtel and accounting and time recording system Quill.

Modria was co-founded in Silicon Valley by Colin Rule, who was head of dispute resolution at eBay and PayPal before agreeing to spin the operation out.

The eBay dispute resolution model – which deals with 60 million disputes a year – has been highlighted by Professor Richard Susskind, who has said that ODR “will become the dominant way to resolve all but the most complex and highest-value disputes”.

Last month, the President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, said the court system “may well have something to learn” from ODR on eBay and elsewhere.

Mr Ross, who practised on Merseyside, said: “This $5m investment [from Foundry Group], the largest funding ever in alternative dispute resolution, is a real turning point for ODR and will now enable Modria to achieve its vision of building the new model civil justice system for an increasingly connected world.”

Its first court project in Europe commences this month in two courts in the Netherlands in which Modria’s innovative technology will be used to help resolve neighbour disputes in tandem with a “travelling judge” who will visit the disputing parties.

Also, the new EU Regulation on ODR and Directive on ADR will, when in force, actively encourage the use of ODR for consumers by requiring websites selling to consumers to carry an ODR link and require ombudsmen and other consumer ADR services to enable use of their ADR services online.

Ahead of these developments, Modria has launched an ODR service in partnership with the consumer protection authority in British Columbia, Canada.

Modria has also been accepted by the UK government as an approved cloud service supplier to national and local government and other publicly funded bodies through the Cabinet Office’s GCloud system. As a result, government bodies can contract with Modria directly without having to go through a lengthy procurement exercise.

Mr Rule said: “Companies like eBay have long known the importance of converting disputes into fair and swift outcomes as a means of growing their business. Now, businesses in other sectors, from insurance companies to healthcare and government agencies, are climbing on board. Foundry’s investment in Modria is further evidence of how important this space is.”

The Modria Diagnosis module collects and organises all the relevant information about the issue and suggests possible solutions. The Negotiation module distills points of contention and enables the parties to discuss the matter directly and on the record.

If the parties are unable to resolve the issue through negotiation, the Mediation module provides an impartial third party to help clarify issues and brainstorm options. If no mutual agreement can be reached, the Arbitration module lets the parties select a decision maker who examines the facts and renders a decision.

Throughout the process, users can engage in secure discussions and submit documents and videos supporting their arguments.