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UPDATED: December 31, 2012 NO. 1 JANUARY 3, 2013
Justice Through Internet
Judges resolve disputes via online mediation
By Wang Hairong

CYBERCOURT: Judge Chen Liaomin (left) at the Xihu District People's Court in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, attends to an online mediation workshop on August 16, 2012 (HAN CHUANHAO)

Although the Internet seems to exist as a lawless frontier of identity fraud, anonymous slander and hardcore pornography, some law makers are eagerly bringing justice to the world's wild Web.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China's largest e-commerce company that runs C2C website Taobao.com and B2C website Tmall.com, is headquartered in Xihu District in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.

A colossal amount of transactions are carried out on the two websites every day. According to Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, the combined transaction volume of Taobao.com and Tmall.com surpassed 1 trillion yuan ($159 billion) in the first 11 months of 2012.

Out of the astronomical number of online sales also rose a huge amount of disputes. In 2011, Taobao.com users were reportedly involved in approximately 400 million disputes over discrepancies, defects, intellectual property violations, fraud and malicious complaints. Although Taobao.com has a team of more than 500 members to handle disputes, many have been brought to court.

Since most e-commerce disputes are trivial and involve parties not residing in the same city, legal experts warn that such cases would waste legal resources if brought to trial.

He Jun works for the Xihu District Bureau of Justice. He successfully mediated a dispute involving a consumer who complained of an allergic reaction to cosmetics purchased on Taobao.com in 2011. The vendor refused a refund, saying that the cosmetics he sold were of good quality. Taobao.com's Consumer Service Department could not broker an agreement between the buyer and seller, so it handed the case to He.

The mediator held a videoconference for the distant parties. The buyer showed her symptoms. Noting the allergic reaction appeared quite serious, the vendor agreed to a refund. Both parties expressed satisfaction with the solution.

In December 2011, Song Yan, Deputy Director of Xihu District Justice Bureau told the Legal Daily that they had solved more than 1,000 disputes through online mediation, accounting for about 8 percent of the district's total resolved cases. Song said that out of 10 difficult resolved issues involving parties not living in the same region, nine were mediated online.


Inspired by the success of the Xihu District Bureau of Justice in mediating civil disputes online, the Xihu District People's Court launched a mediation workshop on the Internet in September 2011. In the first month, it resolved four cases.

Chen Liaomin, a 40-year-old judge at the court, has become ever busier since the launch of the online mediation workshop. Besides her regular caseload, answering messages from litigants occasionally encroaches upon her spare time.

With Internet services such as encrypted e-mail, secure chat rooms and videoconferencing, it is possible for people in different places to resolve disputes through online mediation.

"Sincere exchanges with judges in cyberspace can allow litigants, who either live in different cities or are unwilling to sit face to face, accept mediation," Chen told Xinhua News Agency.

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