In many cases, Internet business disputes can be resolved in a short period of time without filing a lawsuit. This includes both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) conflicts.
Here are five things you can do to make your ecommerce life easier.
1. Put your ecommerce conflict resolution policy in writing.
Ideally you’ll want your written agreements for products and services to include provisions that clearly state how disputes will be handled if there’s a disagreement. That way everyone is on the same page for handling problems before they occur.
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If you don’t set up a roadmap ahead of time, chances are you’ll get sued by an unhappy party with a very happy lawyer collecting fees for going after you.
At the first sign the other party might be considering a lawsuit, if you don’t already have an agreement in place for dispute resolution as part of a binding contract, reach out and see if everyone can agree to alternative dispute resolution rather than rushing to the courthouse.
2. Try informal dispute resolution first.
In this era of emails and text messaging, a lot can get lost in translation. This can lead to miscommunication, misunderstanding, and the destruction of an otherwise healthy business relationship.
Commit that you’ll try to talk things out informally face-to-face, by telephone, or videoconferencing (Microsoft Skype, Apple FaceTime, Google Hangouts etc.) if there’s a problem. You’ll be amazed at how many ecommerce problems simply disappear by this method.
3. Mediation is a good second step for Internet conflict resolution.
If you can’t come to a solution by dealing directly with the other party 1-on-1, bring in a qualified mediator to help you solve your problem. There are experienced mediators who can meet face-to-face or provide online mediation via telephone, Skype, etc.
4. If mediation doesn’t work, try binding private arbitration instead.
Having a neutral party arbitrate your dispute and render a decision is a lot like having a judge do it in court. The primary advantages of arbitration over lawsuits are cost, speed, the ability to select the decision-maker, and improving your chances of keeping your dispute confidential.
5. Cut your losses in Internet business disputes and walk away.
If the choice is between (a) an expensive lawsuit that will take years, and (b) chalking up a loss as a life lesson by walking away, consider what’s really best for you and your company.
If you’ve been wronged, rarely will you achieve true justice in court even if you technically win. And even a “win” can often be appealed by the side that loses, racking up more time and expense for everyone.
If the return on the investment of your time, energy and money justifies pursuing a lawsuit to resolve one of your Internet business disputes, go for it. However, carefully weigh your conflict resolution options before telling a trial lawyer “I want to sue someone.”