Foundation for the Settlement of Automation Disputes
Yes, SGOA (Stichting Geschillenoplossing Automatisering, or foundation for the resolution of ICT disputes) has no links to any other organization or interest group. The foundation’s board is a diverse body and includes individuals from the world of academic law, government and vendors and users of information and communication technology. SGOA does not have a profit objective and is completely self-supporting financially. SGOA’s arbitrators, mediators, people who provide third-party rulings and experts who handle the ICT disputes work in a variety of sectors. So SGOA is completely independent.
SGOA deals with a wide variety of conflicts in the field of organization and ICT. These can be disputes in the Netherlands or abroad, and disputes that are organizational, technical, commercial or legal in nature. However, in all cases you and the opposing party must be agreed on the decision to submit your conflict to SGOA. To give some examples, conflicts can be about:
- Organizational change processes that have got out of hand
- Mistaken advice from consultants
- ICT projects that are getting nowhere
- Determining the price consequences of additional work/cancelled work
- Professional errors by ICT experts
- Software piracy or violation of software rights
- The supply of faulty hardware or software
No, you do not need to engage a lawyer in order to submit an ICT dispute to SGOA. You are allowed to handle your case yourself. Of course you are also allowed to enlist the support of a lawyer, other legal specialist or indeed an ICT expert, for example. In fact, if the conflict is complex or if extensive interests are involved, you are advised to seriously consider the option of enlisting the help of an expert first.
In ICT mediation, the parties to the dispute take control of the situation and work on resolving their conflict themselves. This process is managed by an independent mediator and co-mediator. In this straightforward procedure, the mediators ensure that all interests are properly and efficiently put on the table. If necessary, the mediators can also mediate between the parties. Only then is it possible to achieve a win-win situation for all parties. In ICT mediation, a wide range of potential solutions or arrangements can be discussed in an open atmosphere. These can be answers to technological, commercial or legal issues, for instance. The agreements made by parties in an ICT mediation procedure can be recorded in a settlement agreement, if required. Another option is for the mediators to give the parties a non-binding ruling on the conflict.
Yes. Arbitration is a form of justice administered by private arbitrators. If parties in a conflict opt to submit a dispute to arbitrators provided by SGOA, this generally means they will no longer be able to take the case to the regular courts. Arbitration results in an arbitration ruling. An arbitration ruling has virtually the same force of law as the judgement in a regular court of law. The Dutch term for a binding third-party ruling, ‘bindend advies’, translates literally as binding opinion, which is rather confusing as the judgement in a binding third-party ruling is not an opinion; it is a binding addition to the existing contract between the parties in a conflict. Each party must in principle comply with its contractual obligations, and therefore also with the binding ruling made by a third party in a dispute between the parties to the contract. If one party refuses to comply with the binding third-party ruling, the opposing party will need to take the case to the regular courts after all.
A conflict about an ICT issue can be so urgent that you feel a temporary measure needs to be taken without delay. In such a situation, it may not be sensible to go through standard legal proceedings via the regular courts or SGOA’s arbitrators first. One example of such an urgent dispute is where an ongoing ICT project has reached a crucial turning point and one of the parties is refusing to cooperate. A temporary solution to the problem can be requested in a fast summary arbitral procedure arranged by SGOA. After a ruling has been given in the summary arbitral proceedings, there can be separate proceedings ‘on the main issue’ of the case if required.
Yes. If a regular court has to consider an ICT dispute in a court case, the judge may call on an ICT expert to provide information concerning the ins and outs of the problem. After all, ICT disputes are often highly complex. Judges will often be insufficiently familiar with ICT matters to assess the case entirely on the basis of their own knowledge. SGOA has various ICT experts who are able to give the courts their objective, expert opinion from an entirely independent perspective. The right expert for the ICT problem in question can be selected in consultation with SGOA.
SGOA always seeks to settle disputes quickly. The time taken to deal with a dispute obviously depends partly on the complexity of the case and the extent to which the parties cooperate. This means completion times vary from case to case. SGOA’s procedure completion times have been analysed and turn out to be shorter on average than proceedings in the regular courts (click here for the research report).
The costs of an SGOA procedure consist of a number of different items. In addition to a one-off registration fee and administrative charges, which must be paid in every case by both the claimant and the respondent, there are charges for the activities of the arbitrators, mediators, third parties who give binding third-party rulings, experts and the secretary, based on the applicable hourly rate. Any other costs incurred are also payable. In its rulings, SGOA may also take a decision regarding an appropriate allocation of the legal costs to the parties to the dispute.
Insurers are sometimes prepared to cover the costs of an SGOA procedure. Some professional liability insurance policies for ICT vendors explicitly include cover of such costs. But even if your policy is not clear on the matter, it is still worth contacting your insurer or insurance broker. It is often in the interests of the insurer as well to start a minitrial through SGOA as such minitrials can prevent the conflict between the parties escalating and the losses resulting from the dispute increasing. In such a situation, it would be logical for the insurer to cover the costs. However, you should contact the insurer before approaching SGOA in order to prevent any disappointment.
No. SGOA is a foundation and does not have any members or participants. Consequently, you do not need to be affiliated to SGOA in order to make use of SGOA’s services for the resolution of disputes. Any individual and any company or other organization can turn to SGOA. So you do not need to belong to an industry association in order to be able to submit your dispute to SGOA.