Alternative Dispute Resolution – ADR
Issuing proceedings in any claim should be the last resort if a claim cannot be settled, but what other ways are there to do this?
In most cases a conciliator is appointed to see or speak to the parties separately to try and see if a settlement can be reached. It is unlikely that the conciliator will see all of the parties to the claim together.
Conciliation is offered in other areas of law, such as by ACAS in employment cases, but is not often used in consumer cases.
A mediator is appointed to try and help the parties to negotiate a settlement. The parties usually have a meeting together, assisted and guided by the mediator. The process is private and confidential. All of the parties must agree to have attended the mediation and any outcome can only be enforced if set out in a legal document that can be drafted by the mediator.
If proceedings are issued, all parties are asked if they would attend mediation before proceeding with their claim.
The process can be quicker and cheaper than issuing legal proceedings, and the mediator is trained to act as a neutral facilitator and guides the process.
For consumers this can be voluntary, but may be mandatory for some traders. In these cases, the adjudicator (or Ombudsman) will look at the evidence usually submitted on paper, of both firms and come to a decision. It is a matter for the parties to decide whether the outcome is going to be binding however, complaints made to the Ombudsman Service or CISAS (for telecommunications) or the Financial Ombudsman (financial complaints) are binding on the company, but not on you as the consumer. The process is usually free for consumers.
Complaints taken to ABTA about holidays are binding and there are costs that have to be paid to bring a claim.
This can be voluntary or mandatory (as a consumer you can only be forced to attend arbitration if you entered into a contract where this was made clear and the amount in dispute is more than the small claims limit).
The costs of arbitration can be quite high, but the decision that is made by the arbitrator is binding on all of the parties.