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 (or ADR provider) and free to the consumer. Binding on the trader (they lose membership if don’t abide by the rules but this 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 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.

Film recorded for Citizen’s Advice:

The Complaining Cow - when things go wrong

Guest posts by Ombudsmen

Why use the Financial Ombudsman?

Furniture and dispute resolution guest post.

Energy ombudsman shows how to keep heat on your supplier

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

Problems in the ADR/Ombudsman sector

There are many issues regarding ADR and Ombudsmen providers. These are to do with the oversight by the approval bodies. See Government and regulators continue to fail on resolving consumer disputes and Landing in Court with Ryanair. These articles include links to reports (Ombudsman Omnishambles and More Ombudsman Omnishambles in particular). They also link to articles from Which? and The Independent that describe a number of problems which are not the fault of providers and provide  warnings about one provider, Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited run by Dean Dunham which runs RetailADR, UtitlitiesADR and AviationADR.

Alternative Dispute Resolution - approval and oversight in the loosest sense of the words...

 

Why use the Financial Ombudsman?

I’ve used the Financial Ombudsman a couple of times and obviously both times he found in my favour! Both times were Halifax too! Here, Patrick Hurley, Director of General Casework describes why and at what point you should contact the Financial Ombudsman.

Patrick Hurley Director of general casework
Patrick Hurley Director of General Casework

People often ask, what does the ombudsman service stand for? There’s a potentially long answer to that. But I think the short answer and the right answer is fairness.

But what is fairness? It’s not always easy to define; it can differ according to culture, the situation you’re in or your personal values. However, it’s a near certainty that all of us, at some point, will be subject to that clear sense of outrage that something unfair has been done to us.

The science behind this is as complex as the feeling itself. The part of our brain that assesses fairness is linked to the same section that registers disgrace and disgust. We’re emotionally programmed to react with strong negative feelings at the thought of injustice whereas we experience a more positive, settled response to what we perceive as being fair treatment.

Explaining an emotional reaction when there is something obviously unfair is easy. For instance, if someone were to take £500 from you for no reason and then refuse to give it back. There’s one clear act of wrong doing, a loss that can be quantified and a straightforward way to make things fair again. This is a situation where those three words we’ve all used at some time “That’s not fair” clearly apply …and most people would agree.

But what if the thing that triggered the emotional reaction isn’t as clear cut as that? What if it’s something you can’t quite put your finger on? Or a culmination of things over the course of several months that has left you with that sense of outrage? Or there’s simply been poor service?  Trying to explain why something that to most people is a relatively small incident is in fact a “final straw” moment for you can be tough. It can be even more difficult if there isn’t really a clear resolution you can point to – you just want it putting right.

When this happens, many people don’t always know where to turn and the temptation can be to give up. That’s what people tell me when I ask them why they haven’t used the ombudsman all too often – particularly from people who didn’t want to complain as it was over something ‘small’. Yet that’s exactly what we’re here for.

We are here to look at problems about fairness in money matters as a whole – big and small. Everything from the loss of £150,000, to a person being inconvenienced by poor service such as bank statements being sent to the wrong address, that ‘final straw moment’ where you find yourself having the same conversation asking the bank to sort out the same problem, and lots in between.

People also often worry that it’ll be a really complicated process to come to us and the business they are complaining about might turn on them. Just to reassure you, this should never happen. All you need to do is give us a call us, go through what happened in your own words and we’ll take it from there. Yes there are some rules but we’ll talk you through them in plain English.  That’s essentially our process.

So, my final words would be these; the next time you get a gut feeling that something’s not right, don’t write it off. Even if it takes you a while to explain the circumstances that led you to your “it’s not fair” moment, call us.  It can be about a lot of money, a little, or even just a point of principle.  And often the people we help simply want an apology or an explanation. Of course, we won’t always find that something wrong has happened, but we will let you know what we think. Either way, the ombudsman can help you work through what the problem actually is and figure out what can be done to make things right again.

You can find further information on the Financial Ombudsman on their website here.

 

Before you go to the Financial Ombudsman do follow these tips when you complain and for more information, guidance, consumer laws, rights and templates for complaining about just about anything in most sectors GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!