DOCDEX, standing for Documentary Credit Dispute Resolution Expertise, is a rapid, cost-effective system intended to resolve disputes involving International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) rules on documentary credits. Originally introduced in 1997, it is a private, expert-based and (unless otherwise agreed) non-binding alternative to international litigation and arbitration. The ICC says that DOCDEX has been used by practitioners worldwide who need quick decisions on outstanding conflicts.
The original DOCDEX system dealt with two of the ICC's sets of Rules: the Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits (UCP 500) and the Uniform Rules for Bank-to Bank Reimbursements under Documentary Credits (URR 525). Since then, the Rules have been revised, expanding the DOCDEX process to encompass two other sets of ICC Rules: the Uniform Rules on Collections (URC 525) and the Uniform Rules for Demand Guarantees (URDG 458).113
The ICC says that:
"The purpose of an expertise under the DOCDEX Rules is to enable a panel of three independent, experienced documentary instruments experts, appointed by the ICC International Centre for Expertise, to issue an opinion and/or recommendation on any given dispute for a fair and rapid resolution of a dispute. There are no hearings, the decision is not binding and not intended to conform with the legal requirements of an arbitral award. The ICC urges banks to respect DOCDEX Decisions on a voluntary basis. If the parties wish to increase the enforceability of DOCDEX Decisions, they may specify in advance that the DOCDEX Decision will be legally binding between them....
"All the parties are given the opportunity to participate in the DOCDEX proceedings. However, the DOCDEX panel issues an opinion regardless of whether or not the Respondent agrees to participate.
"The DOCDEX Experts' Panel remains anonymous. All communication between Experts and parties passes through the Centre; there are no hearings. The Experts are chosen from a list maintained by the ICC Commission on Banking Technique and Practice.
"The Chair of the Experts' Panel has to issue an opinion to the Centre within 30 days following receipt of the relevant documents. The Experts' decision is examined by the Technical Adviser of the Banking Commission, who ascertains that their decision is in line with the applicable ICC Rules and their interpretation by the Banking Commission.
"The Experts' decision is issued by the Centre as a DOCDEX Decision. It is issued in English (unless the Appointed Experts decide otherwise), and is to include a summary of the representations made and a determination of the issues and the decisions taken with 'succinctly stated reasons'. The Decision is deemed to be made in Paris on the date it is issued.
"The DOCDEX Rules provide that the ICC may publish any DOCDEX Decision provided that the identities of the parties to the dispute are not disclosed. DOCDEX Decisions have already been published in DC Insight."
Decisions are also published in the collection of ICC decisions from the Commission on Banking Technique and Practice.114
Article 1.1 explains the scope of the DOCDEX dispute resolution service; as noted above, this relates to disputes under the various ICC rules. The Article states that the objective of the service "is to provide an independent, impartial and prompt expert decision (DOCDEX Decision) on how the dispute should be resolved on the basis of the terms and conditions of the documentary credit, the collection instruction, or the demand guarantee and the applicable ICC Rules, be it the UCP, the URR, the URC or the URDG (ICC Rules)."
References for the various publications - and copies of these publications - can be obtained from the ICC.
Article 1.3 deals with the appointment of the Experts' Panel:
"When a dispute is submitted to the Centre in accordance with these rules, the Centre shall appoint three experts from a list of experts maintained by the Banking Commission. These three experts (Appointed Experts) shall make a decision which, after consultation with the Technical Adviser of the Banking Commission, shall be issued by the Centre as a DOCDEX Decision in accordance with these rules. The DOCDEX Decision is not intended to conform with any legal requirements of an arbitration award."
Article 1.4 provides that, unless otherwise agreed, a DOCDEX Decision is not binding on the parties. Article 1.5 states that in the DOCDEX procedure, communication with the Centre "shall be conducted exclusively in writing, i.e. by communication received in a form that provides a complete record thereof, via teletransmission or other expeditious means".