Skip to content Skip to footer

Confusion, gaps, and overlaps

21 April 2017

Confusion, gaps, and overlaps [ 1.4 mb]

Consumers who have experienced a problem with a business that they have been unable to resolve on their own can go to the small claims courts, but increasingly consumers can turn to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) schemes. This report is about the UK’s current approach to ADR.

There have been longstanding criticisms of ADR provision for consumers and there is wide consensus that the system is incoherent and confusing. The current Government has an opportunity to address some of these criticisms in a forthcoming Consumer Green Paper. This is, therefore, an opportune time to be thinking about how to ensure that ADR meets consumers’ needs and serves their interests.

Three core messages arise from the research:

The ADR landscape is confusing for consumers.

There are now more ADR schemes than ever. While this is not a problem in itself and has improved coverage, it has further added to the complexity facing consumers. And there remain significant gaps and overlaps. Where there are gaps, consumers are left without remedy. Where there are overlaps, consumers are left confused.

The current ADR landscape is not designed with consumers’ needs in mind.

Except where ADR is mandatory, businesses have the power both to decide whether to take part in ADR and, if so, which ADR scheme to use. In some sectors, multiple ADR schemes compete with each other. The result is that consumers’ needs are not being met. Often consumers do not know where to complain.

Improving ADR provision is hampered by a lack of good quality data.

Simply describing the UK’s ADR landscape is a complex task. Information is not readily available and there is significant variation between ADR schemes in terms of transparency. Lack of good quality comparative data makes tackling the shortfalls in ADR provision more difficult. It also means that feedback loops that might improve business practice are less likely to be present. Overall, it means that ensuring consumer needs are met is difficult to assess and assure.

For further information on ADR provider comparison, see Appendix D - Map of ADR Providers [ 420 kb]