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Who offers alternative dispute resolution (ADR)?
If you've got a dispute with a trader but following the complaints procedure hasn't resolved it, you may want to try alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This is a way of settling a dispute without going to court. An independent person looks at your problem and tries to help you and the trader reach an agreement. If you do end up going to court, the court will usually expect you to have tried ADR first.
This page tells you about who offers alternative dispute resolution services.
Trader approved schemes
Many industries have their own recognised ADR schemes that are run through the Institute of Dispute Resolution Schemes (IDRS), an ADR service overseen by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb).
Not all ADR schemes are the same. They can differ in the way your problem is handled and the outcome you can get. Depending on your consumer problem you may be offered:
- conciliation or mediation
Adjudication and arbitration schemes
Check if the trader is a member of a trade association. Many offer alternative dispute resolution as part of their services. You can contact the trader or organisation directly to find out more about the ADR schemes they offer.
Some trade associations are part of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Consumer Codes Approval Scheme. Any traders who are part of this scheme agree to provide good standards of service and must provide ADR for disputes between consumers and traders.
If the trader doesn't belong to a trade association
Some local Trading Standards offer a conciliation service that you may be able to use if the trader doesn't belong to a trade association that offers ADR. You can get advice about whether your local Trading Standards service offers ADR from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.
You can also pay for arbitration yourself, but this may cost significantly more money.
- You can find an independent arbitrator on the Institute of Dispute Resolution Schemes (IDRS) website at: www.idrs.ltd.uk.
If your local Trading Standards doesn’t have a conciliation service, you can ask an organisation approved by the CTSI to offer their ADR scheme to the trader. The trader doesn’t have to accept the offer.
It’s a good idea to look at different schemes before choosing one, to see which is best for you. You should think about:
- how each scheme works
- how long the process takes
- any information the scheme provides about its success rate in resolving disputes
You can find a list of organisations who run approved schemes on the CTSI website: www.tradingstandards.uk.
Certified ADR schemes
Most ADR schemes have to be certified as meeting specific rules in order to operate. If you choose to try and settle a dispute through an ADR scheme, make sure they’re certified.
Only an organisation known as a competent authority can certify an ADR scheme.
The following organisations are competent authorities for regulated industries:
- postal services (Ofcom: postal services complaints)
- telecommunications (Ofcom: phone and internet complaints)
- gambling (The Gambling Commission)
- finance (Financial Conduct Authority)
- estate agents (National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team)
- legal services (Legal Services Board)
- energy (Ofgem)
- airlines (Civil Aviation Authority)
For non-regulated industries, see the CTSI list of approved ADR schemes.
To find out which scheme your telecommunications provider belongs to, you can use the ADR checker on the Ofcom website.
Is your complaint covered by an ombudsman scheme?
If you haven't been able to sort things out directly with the trader, check if your complaint is covered by an ombudsman scheme. They're free of charge and can investigate your complaint for you. If you're not satisfied with the outcome, you can still go to court.
More about complaining to the ombudsman
- You can get more information on ADR from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline. They may also be able to help you find a scheme that's suitable for your complaint.