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23 Alternatives to court

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1. Introduction

2. What alternatives are there to court?

3. Do I need a lawyer to use alternative dispute resolution?

4. How do I decide whether to use an alternative dispute resolution scheme?

5. How do alternative dispute resolution schemes work?

6. Mediation and conciliation

7. Adjudication and arbitration

Adjudication and arbitration are sometimes described as a private version of going to court. They involve an independent adjudicator or arbitrator who is impartial (someone who doesn’t take sides, and who won’t gain or lose anything by the outcome), who hears both sides of the disagreement and makes a decision that will solve the problem.

You and the other person or company must both agree if you want to use adjudication or arbitration.

The process is confidential and so is any amount of compensation that is awarded. Sometimes the adjudicator orarbitrator makes their decision based on papers that each person gives them to support their case. At other times they hold a hearing where both sides can present their case. However, this is usually less formal than a court hearing.

Adjudication is a less formal process than arbitration. Adjudication is not usually binding on the person making the complaint, so you can take your case to court if you do not agree with the adjudicator's decision. Arbitration is binding on both sides, so you can’t take your case to court after the arbitrator has made a decision, unless they have made obvious legal mistakes or behaved improperly.

Adjudication and arbitration can be used for a range of problems, including tenancy deposit disputes and complaints about goods and services.

Trade associations often have adjudication or arbitration schemes for dealing with disputes between consumers and organisations that are members of the association. Some associations run their own schemes, but many are run by an independent organisation called the Independent Dispute Resolution Service (IDRS).

One example of a trade association with an IDRS scheme is the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which can arbitrate on, for example, a disagreement about a holiday.

Under a new law, tenants now have access to adjudication in disputes with landlords about return of deposits. From April 2007 all landlords and letting agents have to belong to a government-authorised scheme that protects tenants' deposits and provides free adjudication if there is a dispute about the deposit at the end of the tenancy (see below for details of schemes).

If you have a dispute with a business, check whether they are a member of a trade association. If they are, ask the trade association whether they have an adjudication or arbitration scheme to deal with your problem. You can also contact the IDRS to see which organisations they run schemes for.

8. Grievance and complaints procedure

9. Litigation

10. Negotiation

11. Ombudsmen

12. How much does alternative dispute resolution cost?

13. Dispute resolution services

14. Further help

15. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with the Advice Services Alliance.

Leaflet Version: November 2007

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