Small Claims and the Pursuit of (Digital) Justice: A Tiered Online Dispute Resolution Perspective

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This paper investigates the most recent developments in completely online small claims processes as a response to the extreme delays in delivering justice by courts. This study argues that adopting a tiered online dispute resolution (ODR) system design can increase access to justice for individuals by simplifying the processes; reducing excessive procedural length and costs; also expanding accessibility to dispute resolution bodies. The present research also proposes that the COVID-19 pandemic has widely opened a bundle of opportunities for complete digitalisation of small claims procedures at the EU and Member State levels. Nevertheless, it deems necessary to closely monitor the function of these systems to ensure that the digitalised small claims procedures meet the standards of procedural fairness and efficiency of justice, in particular concerning self-represented litigants. Thus, the overall structure of this paper takes the form of four sections. The first part lays out the evolution of ODR in relation to small claims and analysing a tiered ODR system design for these cases. Section II gives an overview of the most prominent operating online small claims processes from a global perspective in the United Kingdom, Canada, China, and the United States. The third section is concerned with the status of online small claims processes and the taken measures at EU and Member States level. The final part provides a discussion on the lessons learnt, the opportunities, and the risks in full digitalisation of small claims processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-213
Number of pages33
JournalRevista ítalo-española de Derecho Procesal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2022


  • Small Claims
  • Online Dispute Resolution
  • Access to Justice
  • ODR System Design


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