SCC Virtual Hearing Survey shows both positive and hesitant attitudes
Fast-tracking the future? Since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in March 2020 nearly 40% of the hearings in SCC arbitration cases were conducted online. Arbitrators report a generally positive experience of the virtual hearings, but some show hesitations around technology and the assessment of witnesses.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 resulted in a fast-tracking of digitalisation in international arbitration. Ideas and technologies that too many arbitration practitioners had seemed futuristic only weeks before suddenly took center stage. The most notable change has been the quick move in the direction of virtual hearings. With no end in sight to travel restrictions and limitations on group gatherings, the arbitration community has come to embrace — or at least accept — the virtual hearing as a necessary choice when meeting in person is not possible.
To learn more about the virtual hearings taking place in SCC arbitrations, the SCC conducted a survey in October 2020. The survey found that virtual hearings have replaced in-person hearings in most international arbitrations, and to a lesser extent, in disputes involving only Swedish parties. Arbitrators report a generally positive experience of the virtual hearings, despite some hesitations around technology and the assessment of witnesses.
Viewed from a broader perspective, the survey findings suggest that the current pandemic may serve as a catalyst for the renewal and improvement of the international arbitration process. Changes necessitated by the crisis may, in fact, leave a permanent imprint in the international arbitration landscape, perhaps making virtual hearings the norm rather than the exception. Because, as one arbitrator wrote, “assuming the technical platform functions smoothly, online hearings have the great benefit of saving time, cost and inconveniences related to the organization of in-person hearings.” Other arbitrators added “reduced climate impact” to that list of benefits.
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