What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternative Dispute Resolution is a range of mechanisms designed to be used in place of the traditional county court hearing. Mechanisms range from very informal mediation and ombudsman type services to more formal arbitration and adjudication services.

What is an approved Consumer ADR body?

Since October 2015 the UK government has approved a number of bodies to carry out ADR work in the case of disputes over consumer purchases. The bodies are audited by a ‘competent authority’ to ensure their structure and processes are timely and effective in dealing with consumer disputes, that their fees to consumers are nominal and that case handlers and their decisions are unbiased.

What is the trader required to do in regard to consumer ADR?

Generally, if a consumer has a complaint against a trader, the trader will first try and resolve that complaint using their existing customer service process. If the consumer and trader reach a stage where it becomes clear that they are not able to resolve the dispute, the trader MUST be able to indicate an approved ADR body, capable of dealing with the dispute. At present the trader is not required to use the indicated body but it is hoped that in time, customer pressure will mean that more and more will do so.

When does a trader need to provide a link to the Online Dispute Resolution platform?

If a trader is selling goods or services from their website then a link must be provided, to the ODR platform, somewhere on that website. There are no detailed requirements as to how and where this link is placed. If you cannot find it, it may be necessary to ask the trader. If there is not a link this is something you might want to report to your local trading standards service.

How will the Online Dispute Resolution platform come to a decision on my complaint?

It won’t. The ODR platform is merely a tool to help you select and contact an approved ADR body. The platform itself has no role in a decision, it may however help you to submit a complaint and subsequent evidential documents, to the ADR body.

How will the approved Alternative Dispute Resolution body come to a decision on my complaint?

Approved ADR bodies use a range of processes but all are designed to be effective. Many bodies have specific expertise in their particular sector whilst others are, just like the courts, more generalist in nature.

Why would I use an approved ADR body rather than go straight to court?

You could go straight to court. However, many consumers are reticent to do this as they perceive the cost and formality to be too great to be worthwhile. Approved ADR bodies have been audited to ensure effectiveness, with less formality and usually significantly less cost. In most cases if you're not happy with the decision of the ADR body you can then go to court, although your case may be seen to have the same weaknesses by the court, as by the ADR body.