Alternative Dispute Resolution: What it all means

Alternative Dispute Resolution

From the 9th July 2015 The EU ADR Directive was supposed to come into force. It was delayed until the 1st October. This compels the government to ensure that ADR schemes are in place.

ADR is a process that enables disputes between a consumer and a business to be settled via an independent mechanism outside the court system and can provide a quicker resolution. There are different forms of ADR:

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 IDRS and ACAS services.

Adjudication – by ombudsmen and free to the consumer. Binding on the trader but not on you should you not agree and want to take the matter to court. For details of ombudsmen see the relevant sector chapter.

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 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.

There’s a guest post from the Financial Ombudsman.

Furniture and dispute resolution guest post.

The ADR appears to have let the flood gates open and the potential for an omnishambles of ombudsmen is upon us.

Film recorded for Citizen’s Advice:

Car buyers alert: how not to get fobbed off

A sector which often appears a law unto itself and from which can be very difficult to gain redress.

Garages often try to fob you off with “contact the manufacturer”. Don’t be fobbed off. Many garages are members of Trade Associations which you can contact and if you still don’t get any joy you can go to the Small Claims Court.

One red one blue car

When you choose a garage you should look to see if it is a member of a trade association and if any doubt about the authenticity of the sign you can contact the trade association to check. You can also look online to find garages which are members of the association.

The Motor Ombudsman is an impartial self-regulatory body. Its members follow codes of practice and these have been approved by the Trading Standard Institute Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS). The scheme approves Codes of Practice that set out a minimum standard for their members.

The New Car Code of Practice covers 99 per cent of all vehicles sold within the UK. It sets the standards for new cars which their members must follow. The code commits their members to providing honest and fair sales and warranties written in plain English.

The Service and Repair Code has over 7,800 garages subscribed. This code commits members to providing open and transparent pricing policies and honest and fair services.

The Vehicle Warranty Products Code aims to drive up standards across a wide range of automotive warranty and insurance products, by committing subscribers to higher standards than required by law. The code ensures members warranty products are clear and not misleading and that clear information is given at the point of sale.

If you have a complaint about a member of The Motor Ombudsman and they haven’t resolved your complaint satisfactorily, you can contact The Motor Ombudsman for advice. They will help you resolve your dispute for free using their own conciliation and advisory service. If the matter still can’t be resolved, The Motor Ombudsman can offer you legal arbitration for a fee, or of course you can go through the Small Claims Court.

New Cars
If you want to reject a new car you should do so very quickly. Unlike buying a faulty kettle that you could take back after a few weeks and expect a full refund, a car depreciates in value and this will be reflected in any refund and no doubt be a matter of argument. In court too the judge may say that you have kept the car too long to expect a full refund. You are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and so if it is not fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality or doesn’t fit the description then you are fully entitled to expect the retailer to come and pick up the vehicle and give you a full refund. You do not have to accept a repair. If you have had the car too long to return it you can reasonably expect a repair. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 entitles you to goods which are of satisfactory quality.

You should expect the dealer to pick the car up from you if you are getting the full refund but make sure the cheque has cleared first!

You might choose to accept a repair, or already have had to have a repair, for which you want redress. You can do this whilst retaining your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Story of how I fought to get repairs on a new car for my mother here. It can be hard work but it can be done.

Second hand cars
Undoubtedly you would not expect a second hand car to be in as good a condition as a new car! However, when buying from a dealer you still have the same rights as above.

If you find a defect that wasn’t pointed out to you at the time of purchase you should inform the dealer immediately (usually within less than a couple of weeks). After this time a refund will significantly reflect the difference between market value and the price you paid for the vehicle.

When buying a second hand car you might look more favourably at a warranty scheme to work like an insurance policy but check everything in it with a fine tooth comb.

When buying a second hand car from a private seller your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 still cover you. However, a private seller is only bound to give you truthful answers to questions you ask about the car, unlike car dealers they are not obliged to give details of the car if those details aren’t requested. You can ask for a full refund or you ask the seller to pay for what is needed for the car to match the description. If the seller refuses to do either of these things then the only option open to you is the Small Claims Court.

See How not to get fobbed off by a garage (and what to do if you have been!) if you have been fobbed off in a garage.

For more help on complaining effectively see Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


For masses of information, tips, guidance, laws and regulations and templates GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!