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Dispute Resolution Process

Few jobs on Elance require Dispute Assistance.  However, in the event that a dispute does arise, it is important to know that there is a well-defined process in place to assist both parties in reaching a mutually acceptable outcome, when a client and a freelancer cannot independently come to a mutually satisfactory solution. See below for details on this process and for the answers to other frequently asked questions.

Hourly jobs can result in a dispute, but do not qualify for a dispute call or arbitration.  If a dispute is filed on an Hourly job, Elance will review the dispute request and determine, in its sole discretion, whether the time billed qualifies for payment. In order to qualify for dispute assistance, both parties must agree to use Tracker with Work View in performing and reviewing the work.

  • The screenshots taken automatically by Work View™ must be clearly related to the job requirements or client instructions in the workroom
  • The number of hours billed must be within the hours authorized for the week.
  • The client must have a valid payment method established and agree to automatically pay for hours billed through Work View™ (except those hours the client identifies as not related to the job requirements or client instructions).

Elance Dispute Assistance is available for Fixed Price jobs managed within the Elance platform that have funds still held in Escrow or released from Escrow within the past 30 days.  Either party can file a Dispute within this time frame   Elance Dispute Assistance is a three step process:

  • Step 1: Member Resolution - both parties attempt to find a resolution independently by documenting the disagreement and the expected outcome using the Dispute Notice form.
    • After filing a Dispute Notice form, there is a 2-business day "Member Resolution" period for parties to reach an agreement. After these 2 business days, Elance will check the status of the dispute and if both parties are still in disagreement, Elance will contact both parties with next steps.
    • NOTE: Elance will send all communication surrounding a dispute to the registered email address on file at the time the dispute was submitted. You may check the "Settings" section of your account to view the registered email address. We ask that you respond to the ticket that is assigned to the dispute to prevent any delays.
  • Step 2: Dispute Call – if an agreement is not reached during the Member Resolution stage, and the job qualifies for Dispute Assistance, Elance will attempt to schedule a dispute call with an Elance facilitator and both parties to discuss a mutual resolution.
  • Step 3: Arbitration – If an agreement is not reached on the Dispute Call, one or both parties do not attend a scheduled call, or a call cannot be scheduled due to lack of availability by both parties, either party has the right to move to Arbitration. 

NOTE: Elance will release Escrow funds to the responding party in cases where there are funds held in Escrow and the other party is non-responsive to the Dispute Assistance process and communications.

Elance is not a legal entity and cannot decide who is right or wrong in a dispute, or make a determination of how funds should be disbursed amongst parties.  As an Escrow agent, we can only facilitate a discussion based around a mutual agreement.

Our Terms of Service allows either party the option to bypass the offer of a dispute call and proceed directly to Arbitration for a final ruling.

If the first two steps of Elance Dispute Assistance do not reach a conclusion, the case should proceed to Arbitration as a final step.  Arbitration lets you receive final judgment on your disagreement from an independent third party.  It is typically far less expensive than court and the judgment is enforceable in a court of law.  Elance will adhere to the arbitration judgment and require that both parties abide by the ruling regarding the refund or release of funds held in Escrow and any other considerations. 

Arbitration is provided by AAA (American Arbitration Association).  This company is an independent third party with an associated cost and payment from both parties is required prior to advancing a case to arbitration. As such, there is no financial benefit for AAA to side with a freelancer or client. They will use the contents of the workroom as evidence for each case. More details:

  • AAA allows the parties involved in the dispute to select which arbitrator to use through a strike and rank process.
  • Each filing will receive a final ruling within 30 days from case submission. The arbitrator may grant an extension if deemed necessary, not to exceed 14 days.
  • Total Cost is $875.00:
    • Client pays: $291
    • Freelancer pays: $291
    • Elance pays: $293

Both clients and freelancers should take the following measures to protect themselves in the event of a dispute:

  • Use Elance Escrow.  Clients should only release funds once you have had the chance to inspect and accept the work and make sure these release conditions are clearly specified and agreed to up front.  It is not recommended to release an upfront payment to begin a job.  Once funds are released from Escrow, Elance cannot issue a refund without consent from the freelancer who was paid. 
  • Freelancers should not begin work until funds are held securely in escrow.  Make clear the conditions under which work will begin.
  • Use the Elance Work System: Define very clear milestones as checkpoints on job quality and progress.  Payments can be tied to these milestones.  These milestones are defined in the Terms step just before you award the job to the freelancer.
  • Communicate using Elance.  This assures your Workrooms have a record of communications that will be referenced in the case of a dispute.
  • Require your freelancers to submit weekly status reports through Elance.  If a freelancer submits a Status Report as Complete and you do not agree with the work supplied, you must file a dispute or modify the business terms within 30 days of the Status Report in order to prevent the funds from being auto released to the freelancer per the ‘Escrow Auto Release’ policy.
  • Freelancer should always indicate current job status and highlight any issues that may impede your progress in the weekly status report.
  • Keep your Terms up-to-date.  If the schedule, scope, or amount changes, be sure to update the Terms on Elance.  Remember, this is the official agreement between both parties that will be referenced in the case of a dispute.  If you cannot agree on updated Terms, then it may be an indication that you have a dispute.

Since both the client and freelancer have agreed to the Elance Terms of Service, both must abide by the Dispute Assistance process until a final resolution is reached in case of a dispute, regardless of location.  If one party does not fulfill their obligations by participating, then the release condition for the funds is met and escrow funds are released to whichever party participated in the Dispute Assistance process. 

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