Now that my 'arbitration' case is behind me, I feel comfortable enough to write about it in the hope that others who are going through something similar will benefit from this knowledge.
This case is in particular reference to Elance. There's always been mixed feelings in the freelancing community towards this site; some make their living from clients via Elance, while others feel outraged that they charge not only a subscription fee, but also a hefty commission.
I enjoy working with Elance. I pick and choose my projects and submit bids I feel comfortable with. If they come through, then well and good; if not, there are other sites I also use.
If you happen to get into a tussle with a client (or provider) with regards to payment; then Elance has a fairly good arbitration process in place. This is how it works:
The provider (or client, as this is a two way street) needs to get in touch with Elance and file a 'Dispute Claim Form'. Someone from Elance will get in touch with you and you have up to three days to try and resolve the problem with the other party. If you cannot reach an amicable conclusion after three days, Elance sets up a Dispute Assistance conference call with the provider, the client and someone from the Elance dispute committee. Both provider and client are given time to have their say.
If you still cannot resolve this over the conference call, Elance then gives you the option of filing with an online arbitration company called, Net Arb (www.net-arb.com)
The party who had initially filed the dispute gets the first opportunity to file with Net Arb. Elance issues a unique registration code to file the case and transfers all documentation and Private Message communications over to net-ARB once both parties accept net-ARB's Arbitration Agreement.
Following net-ARB's registration process, everything is handled via e-mail only. The cost to file the case is $199.00 for a single arbiter or $399.00 for a panel. This cost is split equally three-ways, between each party and Elance. In the event an arbitration case is filed and the other party does not respond, the non-participating party’s account will be suspended and any funds held in Escrow will be released to the party who filed the case.
In the event the case is filed, then the arbitration process begins. Both parties get the opportunity to make an opening statement. Each party is then allowed to present evidence and ask questions of the other. All this is done only via emails. Finally, each party needs to make a closing statement. The arbitrator then makes a binding decision; which is communicated to Elance, and accordingly, the funds get released to the person who has won the case.
It's very straightforward; less intimidating than you would imagine; and there is no time frame or deadlines to be met. So you have ample time to prepare all your statements and evidence.
If you still have questions, do visit their site; www.net-arb.com or contact me and I'll be happy to share the information I have.