You are currently viewing A day in the life of the General Conciliation Body Germany – the pros and cons of digitalization (Part 2)

This is the second part of the third article in a series that will be concentrated on alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Its goal is to make you, the reader, whether you are a consumer or a business, acquainted with the ADR as well as to show you the importance and potential of digital technologies when it comes to alternative dispute resolution.

This article is going to show you how different employees of the General Conciliation Body Germany use digital technologies in their everyday work. This will be done in form of interviews with people working in different positions.

We will begin this second part by talking to Marcel who is taking care of everything administrative that the General Conciliation Body Germany has to deal with. 

Q: Can you please present yourself and explain your job at the General Conciliation Body Germany?

My name is Marcel. My official title is something like an executive assistant. I take care of everything concerning administration, personnel, finances etc. I am only involved in the conciliation process when it comes to accounting/sending and monitoring our invoices. 

Q: How dependent is your job on digital technologies? 

Especially working at home has shown me that I am quite dependent on digital technologies. Even though we must keep copies of nearly everything on paper, you can hardly take the whole office with you every time when you need to work from somewhere. So, to anticipate the third question, if you do not have access to digital technologies that you need to work you are kind of blocked. E.g. I spend quite a lot of time checking and calculating numbers in Excel and other accounting software, booking accommodations and tickets for my colleagues when they go on business trips, and similar. Some of it could, of course, be done via telephone but for most of it, I am quite dependent on technology. Also, our tax consultants, for instance, are situated more than 400km away from us so going there in person isn’t really an alternative and we work with them online.

Q: In your opinion, what are the positive and negative aspects of digital technologies when it comes to your everyday work?

Especially when it comes to working at home or abroad, it is much easier to have access to everything you need with the equivalent disadvantages when it doesn’t work. There are also some (software) tools we (or I) must use which are somehow a work in progress and you feel more like during a beta test than working with a fully developed program. 

Last but not least, we will have a talk with one of the lead legal professionals of the General Conciliation Body Germany, who will tell us how the digital has influenced the accessibility and the efficiency of this body. 

Q: Can you please present yourself and explain your job at the General Conciliation Body Germany?

My name is Andrea. I am a lawyer and have been working in ADR since 2009. My job is dispute mediator, a function that is described and required by the (German) law on ADR in consumer matters. There are two dispute mediators in our office. Together with my colleague, we are basically in charge of assuring that our procedure is in accordance with the law. This means for example we keep an eye on the fact that the same procedure is applied to every case. We are also in charge of organizing the casework in general, for example by working on the different procedural steps. Additionally, I work on cases like the other lawyers, in the procedure that Ann-Katrin describes.

Q: How dependent is your job on digital technologies?

I would say it is very dependent on digital technology in the sense that it would not be possible without it. We have a complete electronic file which was particularly useful in the Covid context since we were able to work from home immediately without problems or restrictions.

Not only for our procedure but also for work in general we use digital technology. Legal research is now frequently done through online legal databases. And more and more meetings with colleagues from other ADRs are carried out online. 

Of course, you can also reach us offline. For those who wish, we still accept and write letters or fax, in order to assure access for everyone. We can also be reached by phone. Being available offline is a legal requirement but I think it makes sense to leave many lines of communication open and not try to force 100 percent into online communication. 

Q: In your opinion, what are the positive and negative aspects of digital technologies when it comes to your everyday work?

The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. I would say there is no way back to paper.

Positive is of course that online access and online communication are fast, cheap, and easy. Also, documents needed for casework (contracts, photos, sometimes videos) can be sent easily and without additional cost. Online assures 24/7 access.

Generally, as ADR we are more flexible than for example a court so we can fully profit from „online“ advantages. Around 95% of our cases arrive online which shows that online access is highly requested.

Problems or negative aspects are not specifically linked to our procedure but are general problems of the current state of digitalization: data security and spam problems. Data security is an issue for itself. Concerning spam, we try to balance easy access through online communication with the fact that we want to make sure everybody gets our messages. This means that sometimes we have to resort to paper letters if we fear someone does not get our emails. Also, we provide a Log-In area so that consumers can if in doubt double-check whether we have sent them a message.

Scandinavian countries, for example, Finland, provide online access for citizens, companies, and public authorities (please check for example services for further information). This citizen access has many functions but one is to receive official messages electronically. A similar function would also help us a lot. 

Sometimes, but this is just a side note concerning online communication, I have the impression that the quality of messages deteriorates, people sometimes write with less care, too fast, incomplete, and also sometimes insult the other party, which might not be the case in a letter or in a personal talk.

A big thank you to all the employees that were helpful and that took the time out of the day to respond to the questions. 

Aleksandra Dubovac – M2 Cyberjustice – Promotion 2021/2022 

A propos de COMED 2021/2022