Translation in Online Dispute Resolution - Globe with Arrow to Envelope

Translation in Online Dispute Resolution

Sometimes settling a dispute outside of court is preferable, especially when neither party wants to wait for a long court ruling or carry the cost of a lengthy trial. Logistically, meeting in court may be inconvenient especially for international cases. One technological solution was created which allows disputes to be settled online. While a more economic and quick way to deal with dispute cases, language barriers still exist in multilingual disputes. Therefore, legal translation in online dispute resolution still plays a major role.

What Is Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)

Translation in Online Dispute Resolution - ODR LogoIn such civil law cases, where a consumer and a trader are involved, often Alternative Dispute Resolution is sought out, that is to say hashing out the details by meeting face-to-face. In international business cases, however, this is often not logistically possible. Instead a very similar concept is used called Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), considered to be the online equivalent of Alternative Dispute Resolution.

This method was established in February of 2016 by the European Commission to allow consumers in the EU to submit their disputes online in any of the 23 EU official languages. It is also used among Asian countries, where China, Japan and India are major ODR players. This platform has made border-less dispute resolution possible. But what about the obvious language barriers?

Role of Translation in Online Dispute Resolution

Translation in Online Dispute Resolution - Globe with Arrow Pointing to EnvelopeProfessional legal translation in online dispute resolution plays a vital role. Take for example, a dispute between an American customer and a Chinese trader in a business to business transaction. When Online Dispute Resolution is used to resolve this conflict, each company will have a different internal language. While certain key players might be able to freely communicate in either language, others added to the discussion later on might not be able to do so.

Moreover, in a dispute situation each word carries equal weight and there is absolutely no room for ambiguity. The first instinct might be to simply let an employee who speaks both languages handle the translations. However, even if the employee has bilingual proficiency, a legal text might still suffer due to the complexity of such content. Legal terminology is standardized in every language and must be adhered to, particularly when the interaction is between two businesses.

Currently, there are options for translation services in online dispute resolutions cases. One such example is the platform of the European Commission which offers users two ways to receive multilingual legal translation. Online traders  or consumers involved in an ODR have the option of using machine translation to communicate with the other parties involved with the dispute, and sending documents off to professional legal translators at the end of the dispute (via the European Commissions’ ODR portal). As stated on their website:

“This site also has an automatic translation tool to help you communicate with the trader and/or the resolution body if you do not speak the same language. At the end of the procedure, you can ask for the final outcome to be translated by a professional translator.”

Both have the usual pros and cons of machine vs human translation – namely speed vs high accuracy. While convenient for quick communication, machine translation is still not ideal for legal material due to the technical, and particular, nature of legal language translation. Depending on the type of documents needed for translation in online dispute resolution occurring cross-boarders,  using a professional translator who has a background in law (and specifically ODR) may be the best way to ensure smooth communication for both parties.

Who Uses Professional Translation in Online Dispute Resolution?

E-commerce appears to be a major area where ODR is most readily used to settle disputes, for obvious reasons of convenience. In such cases, an email can be prepared in the native language of one party and refined to convey their exact position in the matter. Then either a machine translation can be prepared, or a professional translator can translate the text into the target language, together with the writers of the original content, to ensure that nothing is lost in translation. While online dispute resolution can be used to facilitate online negotiation and or arbitration, the importance of accuracy and correct word usage is crucial in high level disputes. Not only would a professional legal translator ensure that nothing is misunderstood or miscommunicated, but it is beneficial to use a professional translator who can provide objectivity according to the code of ethics associated with the profession.

 

Sources

  • http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/solving_consumer_disputes/non-judicial_redress/adr-odr/index_en.htm
  • https://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr/main/?event=main.help.faq

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