Re­solv­ing a con­sumer dis­pute

The Wokingham Paper - - SOCIETY -

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: pub­lic@cit­i­zen­sad­vice­wok­ing­ham.org.uk

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