In February 2019, the first polish online arbitration court was created. The court advertises itself as fast, cheap and effective, and may constitute a great opportunity for better resolution of upcoming disputes in Poland.
Currently in Poland there are around 50 active arbitration courts. The first fully online court has been created only this year. The Online Arbitration Court (OAC) provides civil and commercial alternative dispute resolution possibilities for both Polish and international entities. It was established and is currently based in the city of Wrocław. The court is available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
The cases held in the OAC are conducted entirely online and can cover any dispute in which the Polish law provisions provide for the possibility of conclusion of a settlement. All pleading letters and documents provided by the parties necessary for the proceedings, including written witness statements, are sent electronically. Notably, the rulings of the arbitral tribunals in the OAC have the same binding power as the national court judgments. The enforceability of the judgments of the OAC abroad is guaranteed by art. III of the New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards, which has already been ratified by 159 countries, including Poland.
Initiation of the online arbitration proceedings
For the parties to resolve their disputes in the OAC, mutual consent is required. Thus, to make the whole process easier, the OAC created three different model clauses that can be inserted to the agreements (which may also be concluded via online means of communication, e.g. e-mail exchange). However, even if the parties have failed to insert such arbitration clause in their contracts, it is possible to conclude a separate agreement on submission of the dispute to the OAC. In any case for the dispute being resolved by the OAC, both parties must have a valid account in the OAC web system. The registration fee amounts to EUR 25.00. The parties may appoint their own arbitrators, however the OAC keeps also its own list of experienced arbitrators that will be appointed by draw if the parties fail to appoint any. The proceedings are commenced in a standard way – claimant files a statement of claim by filing a specialized form on the OAC website.
Fast and effective procedure
The creators of the OAC have already made many brave statements regarding the effectiveness of the online proceedings. First, the deadlines for submitting pleadings are very tight and the final decision of the arbitral tribunal is set to be announced within three to five weeks of filing the statement of claim. This seems particularly attractive while taking into consideration the proceedings before the regular national court, which may last up to several years. Furthermore, the arbitration rules of the OAC are drafted in such a way to prevent any actions of the parties that could lead to "artificial" prolongation of the proceedings.
Another advantage of conducting online arbitration is the low cost of the proceedings. The founders praise the low arbitration fee – for example, in a case with a dispute value of EUR 100,000.00, a fee for filing a lawsuit is approximately EUR 4,500.00 net. Irrespective of the above, in an online court no costs associated with travel, accommodation of arbitrators, witnesses, deliveries, etc. are incurred, which significantly limits the final costs.
Wind of change?
Merely two months after the creation of the OAC, another specialized online arbitration court was created with the name Ultima RATIO. It is the electronic arbitration court in Warsaw that recognizes cases based on invoices and documents. The arbitrators are notaries and all proceedings are carried out electronically. Cases end with a final judgment in about 3 weeks and, like the OAC, proceedings are conducted without the physical participation of the parties.
The creation of both the OAC and Ultima RATIO are widely described as landmark events, as they can be a revolutionary change in disputes between private entities. They may be particularly attractive for uncomplicated cases with a rather low dispute value. We can certainly see an online trend being created in Polish litigation. Nevertheless, the time for the final judgment of the said trend is yet to come.
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