Resolving a consumer dispute
IF you’ve got a complaint about something you bought or a service and dealing directly with the trader hasn’t worked, you can ask an independent person to look at your problem and try and find a solution.
This is known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Not all ADR schemes are the same.
Depending on your problem you may be offered conciliation or mediation, adjudication or arbitration.
If you’re thinking of taking a trader to court, judges now generally expect you to have considered the use of ADR, before you start court action.
It’s worth trying ADR before going to court. If you’re successful, you will: avoid paying any court fees avoid going to court - which will be more complicated than ADR
still receive your compensation. Conciliation and mediation are usually free to use and are often offered before arbitration because they are less formal.
Conciliation focuses on what you and the trader want and tries to find a way of solving the problem that you are both happy with. Mediation focuses more on the problem and what’s the best way to solve it.
Mediation is a completely voluntary and confidential. An independent, impartial person will help you reach a solution that’s acceptable to everyone.
The mediator can talk to both sides separately or together.
Mediators do not make judgments or decide the outcome of the dispute.
They ask questions that help to uncover underlying problems, assist the parties to understand the issues and help them to clarify the options for resolving their difference or dispute.
Adjudication is independent, less formal than arbitration and is usually free to use.
An adjudicator will look at the written evidence you and the trader send in and make a decision.
The adjudicator is usually an expert in the area you are complaining about and should be approved by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb). You can take your problem to court if you’re not happy with the outcome
Arbitration uses an independent arbitrator, usually from CIArb to make a decision. This is based on the paper evidence you and the trader send in.
The decision the arbitrator makes is legally binding. You will not be able to go to court later if you don’t agree with the outcome.
Some arbitration schemes are free to use. If you have to pay a fee, it will be based on the value of the amount of money you’re claiming. But it’s still usually cheaper than going to court.
The ombudsman service is free for consumers to use but traders have to pay. They cover:
Financial companies, such as banks, building societies and insurance companies Retailers, including online retailers Energy companies
Telephone and internet companies Furniture removers.
You can only use the Ombudsman if you have used the trader’s internal complaints service first.
If you’re making a small claim in court, you’ll be sent a questionnaire which asks if you want to settle the matter out of court using ADR. Both sides need to agree.
If you’re using the small claims track, you’ll be asked if you want to use the Small Claims Mediation Service. This is free and will be provided by the court. If you’re using the fast or multi-track, you’ll have to pay for and find your own ADR scheme. If ADR doesn’t work, the case will be put forward for a hearing in court.
You can get help, information and advice from your local Citizens Advice or visit www.citizensadvicewokingham.org.uk or contact Citizens Advice Wokingham at Second Floor, Waterford House, Erftstadt Court, Wokingham RG40 2YF. Tel: 0300 330 1189. email: firstname.lastname@example.org