Alternative Dispute Resolution Processes Are Becoming Commonplace
Mediation is the most common. This involves employing a professionally trained neutral mediator. The parties meet on a without prejudice basis and the mediator explores whether a consensus can be found.
The Courts promote mediation. Proceedings are commonly stayed for the opportunity to mediate. This tends to make parties more amenable to mediation as they can agree to it without looking weak. Mediation is a flexible process with early settlement bringing considerable time and costs savings.
Another process is submission to a private tribunal, consisting of representatives from each party with an independent chairman hearing submission. The Chairman then makes a ruling which can be binding or non-binding. Alternatively, an independent expert may provide a neutral evaluation – often used in technical disputes.
Many industry sectors have an Ombudsman to hear complaints and order compensation. This offers a low cost, less formal and speedier resolution than litigation.
For example the Financial Ombudsman handles complaints by consumers and businesses with turnovers of less than €2million and 10 employees relating to financial services disputes. It is designed for use without assistance from lawyers. However, in our experience, clients still benefit from legal assistance. The maximum compensation is £150,000.
Many industries, such as the energy sector, have dedicated dispute resolution services. The Energy Ombudsman hears complaints from domestic customers and small businesses in relation to disputes over energy usage. However, the maximum compensation is only £10,000.
Professionals, such as lawyers, have professional bodies where complaints can be heard. Other industries may offer informal dispute resolution services through their trade bodies.
In summary, there are many ways to pursue a claim without going to Court. However claimants need to understand the limits of each body’s jurisdiction, particularly the amount of compensation which can be awarded. For more information, please contact Tristan Benson on 01908 306934.