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Using a Human Mediator for eBay Disputes

Using a Human Mediator for eBay Disputes

What did you learn from using a human mediator to resolve eBay disputes?



Full Transcript

The parties were aware it was a human being. We were asked to do this, and we didn’t know how many disputes to anticipate coming our way. There was a day in March, I think 1999, in which eBay put a link on their website to a dispute resolution process. That was ours. Over the next two weeks, we got about 200 disputes. That was a lot. There hadn’t really been any. It was the largest number of disputes handled online up until that point. Two hundred seemed like a huge amount. Compared to 60 million, it’s a laughable amount, but more human effort probably went into the 200 than goes into, today, the 60 million.


The job of the human being was difficult because it was the same goal that he would have if the parties were in front of him, namely, manage the flow of information between the parties. Certainly, using email with 200 people, I’m surprised he was able to maintain his sanity. We actually ended the experiment a little early because it was overwhelming.

About the mediator

Ethan Ktash Profile Pic

Professor Ethan Katsh is Director of the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution and Professor Emeritus of Legal Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. During the current year, he is a Research Affiliate at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society Professor Katsh is widely recognized as the founder of the field of online dispute resolution (ODR). Along with Janet Rifkin, he conducted the eBay Pi... View Mediator