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VIDEO: How Alternative Dispute Resolution can help with your complaint

Written by: Helen Dewdney
At a stand-off with a company regarding your complaint? You don't have to take it to the Small Claims Court. Instead, consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Here's what you need to know.

Below is a transcript of the two minute video on Alternative Dispute Resolution by consumer champion, Helen Dewdney, AKA The Complaining Cow:

Where can you go if you’re not fully satisfied with the response that a company’s given to you about your complaint? Well, you can go to the Small Claims Court. But actually, there’s an alternative to that in many cases – Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Now, it tends to be an Ombudsman, but not always. And in some sectors, it’s mandatory.

So, the Financial Ombudsman, all banks, building societies, anything to do with finance must be a member. All energy companies must be a member of the Energy Ombudsman. Telecoms must be a member of Communications Ombudsman or CISAS – which is not actually an Ombudsman but it is a member of the Ombudsman Association because all Ombudsman have to be a member of the Ombudsman Association which has higher standards than other providers.

But there are some other sectors too. There’s Rail Ombudsman; there’s Furniture and Home Improvement Ombudsman; there’s the Motor Ombudsman. And also these can help you decide where you’re actually going to shop from because if you have two providers and one is a member of an Ombudsman scheme you know that if things go wrong you can take your complaint there.

Now, you can take your complaint to the Ombudsman eight weeks from the date that you first made a complaint. Or you can ask for a deadlock letter before that time and if the company doesn’t want to discuss anything further with you, it can give you a deadlock letter. You can then take all the evidence to your ADR provider who will look at all the evidence, they will talk to the company, they will talk to you then they will make a decision which is binding on the company but not you so you can always take the matter further if you want to.

Completely independent and it costs the company to actually take a case to ADR so it’s not in their interests to actually go there.

More on complaint resolution

Arbitration – an impartial and independent third party will decide how to resolve your dispute. In most cases, the arbitrator’s decision is binding and cannot be challenged in court. Costs vary and sometimes arbitration is free as with ACAS services.

Adjudication – by ombudsmen (or ADR provider) and free to the consumer. Binding on the trader (they lose membership if they don’t abide by the rules but this is rare) but not on you should you not agree and want to take the matter to court.

Mediation/conciliation – remains confidential and cannot be used in a later court hearing. The cost varies: in some instances it’s free; in others, it can get expensive. By the very nature of the word “mediation” someone will work with you and the other party to reach a decision. If agreement is made and signed, this is legally binding. You would only be able to go to court to enforce it if necessary.

Negotiation – which is used most commonly in employment situations. You can choose to have a union rep or someone else present while you negotiate.

Generally, arbitration is binding on both parties to the dispute; mediation/conciliation and negotiation are non-binding; and adjudication and ombudsmen schemes do not bind the complainant, but will be binding on the other side.

You can find a list of all the ADR providers on the Chartered Trading Standards Institute ADR Providers list.

Helen Dewdney – The Complaining Cow –  is a consumer champion and consumer rights expert who has written two best-selling books on How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! and 101 Habits of an Effective readers can get 15% off these publications with the discount code YMCow.

She has joined forces with to provide our readers with tips, information and action points when it comes to your consumer rights. If you’ve a burning question or a problem and would like Helen’s help on a consumer issue, email us on where we’ll aim to right those wrongs.

As part of our consumer rights series, see:

Rail Strikes: Your travel and refund rights

Flight cancelled or delayed? Your rights explained and

Never pay full price again: The best money saving apps and sites for more information.

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