The emergence and growth of online arbitration practices resulted in the increasing interest in the question of whether an arbitration conducted by the use of electronic means is valid within the current legal framework. As a new mechanism of dispute resolution, online arbitration has encountered certain difficulties in the application of traditional principles of international commercial arbitration law.
This article outlined potential obstacles lying in the path of online arbitration. The online performance of arbitral proceedings finds a number of both stumbling blocks as well “teething problems” on its way. The majority of the arising issues refer to formal requirements in the current regime of international commercial arbitration. These requirements come in various guises: the requirement of an agreement in writing, the requirement of signatures and the requirement of an original. We argued that under certain conditions online arbitration must not be hampered by formal requirements. We hold also that advanced technology may be of great assistance in conducting arbitral proceedings, including electronic submissions, hearings, and even deliberations between arbitrators.
Several issues in this paper have only been briefly outlined. These include defining the place of arbitration and the place where the award is made, since online arbitrations may be par excellence delocalized with the ‘cyber-arbitration tribunals’ having no real physical seat. We agree with the view that the advancement of this type of arbitration may give a new meaning to the delocalization theory in international arbitration law.
Some authors observed, with certain disappointment, that thus far online arbitration has not offered a real alternative to traditional arbitration. It is still considered a legal tool that is promising but “must be utilized with caution due to the above mentioned legal uncertainties” (Manevy167). Yet we do not agree that online arbitration should be seen as traditional arbitration’s competitor. Online arbitration schemes constitute a new dimension of traditional arbitration, existing within the same legal framework. In our opinion arising legal problems do not constitute insuperable obstacles to the application and further growth of online arbitration. The rise of providers of online arbitration seems to reflect this observation.
Thus far, there seems to be agreement in the literature that in the long run, online arbitration will prove to be an important phenomenon within the regime of international commercial arbitration, and certainly “most arbitral institutions will invest in online arbitration”168. However, in the short run, the authors tend to be sceptical, arguing that some uncertainties remain169. In this paper, we claim that although not all of the legal difficulties arising with regard to online arbitration may be easily resolved, there are no insurmountable obstacles to online arbitration within the current legal framework and regime of international commercial arbitration.