These legal bodies in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong have recently teamed up to form an initiative called the Millennium Accord, which is a set of principals and procedures for resolving Y2K grievances between companies and their customers or business partners.
Similar efforts are being carried out all over the world as companies try to avoid paying hefty court costs relating to Y2K litigation. Some estimates pin the cost of litigation surrounding the Year 2000 technology glitch as high as $1 trillion.
"Y2K disputes are expected to create a flood of litigation across every business sector," center officials said in a statement. "Many of them are expected to be cross border," or include parties from different nations.
The Accord is designed to enable companies to avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation over Y2K issues through the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), according to the Singapore Mediation Center (SMC), one of the five organizations involved.
The members of the initiative are the U.K.'s Center for Dispute Resolution, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center, Australia and New Zealand-based group Lawyers Engaged in Alternative Dispute Resolution (LEADR), and U.S.-based leading ADR group JAMS/Endispute.
Each organization will work to attract support from organizations in the public and private sectors in each respective country to become "Accord Signatories" of the Declaration of Support for the Accord Principles, which indicates an intention to take a problem-solving approach and follow a set plan laid out by the accord to contain conflicts and work towards amicable settlements.
"The disputants work together, if necessary, with the help of a neutral third party?to find a mutually acceptable solution to their problems," according to a statement by the Singapore Mediation Center. "Such methods are cheaper and faster than litigation or arbitration."
According to Singapore Mediation Center data, at the end of November, more than 330 cases were referred to it for mediation. The average settlement rate was about 80 percent, with the majority of the disputes being settled within a day.