An experienced legal professional, Judith joined The Furniture Ombudsman in 2011 and specialises in Alternative Dispute Resolution. Since her appointment as head of ADR and senior ombudsman, she has written and presented a wide variety of training courses on Consumer Law and Compliance.
Benefits of ADR to traders
Posted 21st March
Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR, is an alternative for disputes between two parties – we will refer to consumer and traders here – to be heard outside the formal court system. Words such as 'negotiation' and 'conciliation' are often linked to the concept of ADR, which aims to settle a dispute at an early stage and as informally as possible.
The emphasis on settling disputes outside of court has been a cornerstone of access to justice in the UK for many years. There are certain of the regulated sectors that have to use ADR as a means to resolving disputes relating to, for example, financial and legal services, pensions and telecoms. However, more recently an initiative from Europe has placed greater emphasis again on this, and traders now have to provide information regarding their commitment – or otherwise – to ADR.
What does this mean for a trader?
The Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Amendment) Regulations 2015, or the ADR regulations, impose signposting obligations on all traders supplying goods and services to consumers whether they have voluntary membership to an ADR scheme or not.
Additionally, The Online Dispute Resolution Regulations provide for an online portal – 'The ODR Platform' – which will help to pair up consumers across Europe with approved providers of Alternative Dispute Resolution, such as the Ombudsman.
What are the benefits of using ADR?
“The legislation on ADR and ODR will allow consumers and traders to resolve their disputes without going to court in an easy, fast and inexpensive way” – European Commission
ADR offers a quicker, more flexible and cheaper means of resolving disputes. One of the aims of the ADR regulations was to position ADR as a real alternative to accessing justice and to exploit this more readily as a means to settling claims. The benefits of ADR apply equally to traders and their customers and can often offer a more pragmatic resolution to an issue in a far less daunting arena than a court.
When talking about benefits of ADR we must also include the following benefits:
- Less daunting than court – more accessible and less jargon therefore able to be understood by both parties: plain English;
- telephone-led so that you can have your say, and out your point across in a less formal forum;
- decisions will be explained and communicated to both parties;
- helps both parties navigate complicated legal issues in a more practical way – helps both understand their rights and obligations;
- will give you an indication as to what happens next.
Additionally, membership of an organisation that signposts to an ADR entity, or indeed an Ombudsman scheme, can mark you out against your competitors as highlighting your commitment to responsible trade and to putting your consumer first.
How would Dispute Resolution Ombudsman look at a dispute?
LISTEN: As an evidence gathering service which is predominantly telephone-led, the first thing we would do is to allow the trader and customer to have their say. By listening to both parties, we find the grievances are aired and everyone is better placed to come back together to discuss options to resolve the matter amicably.
CONCILIATE: It is not always possible for us to ‘negotiate’ an outcome, but if there is not much ground between the parties, we would certainly try to do so in order to achieve a ‘win/win’.
BE FAIR: We will listen to both sides and come to a fair resolution, which in some instances may be something which neither party had considered before.
BE PRACTICAL: Where services are involved there is often a practical aspect, which – although not strictly legal – is better suited as an outcome and we would always consider a practical resolution where this is possible.
Overall, The Furniture Ombudsman will try not only to offer quicker, cheaper and more flexible access to ADR, but to also offer an alternative viewpoint to the dispute.
More information as to our ADR Service and how we work with Which? Trusted Trader can be found on our website: www.thefurnitureombudsman.org