Making Peace on eBay: Resolving Disputes in the World’s Largest Marketplace

Event Date: Sunday October 19, 2008
Time: 8:30-10:00 A.M. (Continental Breakfast at 8:00)
Location: Pound Hall, John Chipman Gray Room, Second Floor, Harvard Law School

Colin Rule, director of online dispute resolution for eBay and PayPal

eBay is big. If you were to count each of eBay’s 200+ million users as citizens, eBay would be the 5th largest country in the world. More than a billion items are sold on the site each year in dozens of countries around the globe. As you might imagine, all these transactions generate quite a few disputes: more than 40 million a year, in more than a dozen languages. Most of these disputes are not over very large amounts of money; they can be for as little as $5. But eBay users are just as passionate about their disagreements as face-to-face disputants, and because they are spread all over the world, their disputes can involve cultural misunderstandings, language barriers, and class differences. Come hear Colin Rule, eBay and PayPal’s first Director of Online Dispute Resolution, and author of Online Dispute Resolution for Business, discuss the challenges of resolving disputes in cyberspace and what useful lessons can be drawn for the practice of dispute resolution more broadly.

Colin Rule is the director of online dispute resolution for eBay and PayPal. He has worked in the dispute resolution field for more than a decade as a mediator, trainer, and consultant. He is currently co-chair of the Online Dispute Resolution Committee of the American Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Section, and a fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. Colin co-founded Online Resolution, one of the first online dispute resolution (ODR) providers, in 1999 and served as its CEO (2000) and president. In 2002 Colin co-founded the Online Public Disputes Project, which applied ODR to multiparty, public disputes. Previously, Colin was general manager of, the largest online resource for the dispute resolution field. Colin also worked for several years with the National Institute for Dispute Resolution in Washington, D.C. and the Consensus Building Institute in Cambridge, MA.

He has presented and trained throughout Europe and North America for organizations including the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the Department of State, the International Chamber of Commerce, and the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution. He has also lectured and taught at UMass-Amherst, Stanford, MIT, Southern Methodist University, the University of Ottawa, and Brandeis University.

Colin is the author of Online Dispute Resolution for Business, published by Jossey-Bass in September 2002. He has contributed more than 50 articles to prestigious ADR publications such as Consensus, The Fourth R, ACR News, and Peace Review. He authors the online conflict resolution column in ACResolution Magazine and contributes to, a news resource chronicling developments in the ODR field. He holds a master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in conflict resolution and technology, a B.A. in peace studies from Haverford College, and he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Eritrea from 1995-1997.


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