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Is the best mediation for online arguments online?

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This story appears in the April 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When a deal made over the Internet goes sour, it may be harder to resolve the problem than when you're dealing with people face to face. Chances are you're dealing with an entity you don't know, most likely located in some far away legal jurisdiction. Commercial law varies some from state to state, and much more from country to country.

If sending an e-mail or making a few phone calls fails to resolve the problem, consider online mediation. Like face-to-face mediation, online mediation puts a neutral third party between you and the other side. In some versions, the mediator communicates by e-mail or in a private chat room with the parties, helping to identify issues and assess options, then relaying settlement offers until the parties come to an agreement. Other versions are tailored for cases involving monetary damage, and use a computer program to decide how much money will settle the claim.

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