The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIA) is working with the IT lobby group, Eurim, E-Centre and the Internet Service Providers Association, to set up low-cost arbitration services for IT customers and suppliers.
The service, which could be up and running by the end of the year, will also prevent commercially sensitive details being disclosed in evidence at public trials.
IT suppliers have become less resistant to the idea of independent dispute resolution as demand has fallen.
"Now the market has stalled suppliers are discovering that users want to pay for service rather than bells and whistles. The suppliers want to spend their money on service and support rather than lawyers fees," said Philip Virgo, strategic adviser to the Institute for the Management of Information Systems.
The proposed scheme will be modelled on the Computer Software Solicitors' arbitration scheme, created to settle disputes between law firms and IT suppliers.
Members will have access to one of 75 IT arbitration specialists, who will attempt to settle disputes at a fraction of the cost of going to court.
Gregory Hunt, manager of dispute resolution services at the institute, said costs can be kept low because the CIA is a non-profit-making body.
The institute plans to create separate dispute services for E-Centre and Rightswatch, a project geared to resolving disputes about Internet content, and the Internet Service Providers Association. Others are likely to follow.
Eurim is understood to want to extend arbitration services internationally to cover disputes with users and suppliers in the UK and the US.
What dispute resolution options are available to you?
- Negotiation - the most common form of dispute resolution where the parties themselves attempt to resolve the dispute
- Mediation - a private and structured form of negotiation assisted by a third party that is initially non-binding. If settlement is reached it can become a legally binding contract
- Conciliation - like mediation, but a conciliator can propose a solution
- Neutral evaluation - a private and non-binding arrangement where a third party, usually legally qualified, gives an opinion on the likely outcome at trial as a basis for settlement discussions
- Expert determination - a private process involving an independent expert with inquisitorial powers who gives a binding decision
- Arbitration - a formal, private and binding process where the dispute is resolved by the decision of a nominated third party, the arbitrator or arbitrators.