What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a process used to resolve disputes between two parties and acts as an alternative to going to court. It is entered into voluntarily by the parties, hence the key to its success.
The Furniture Ombudsman is the recognised body for resolving disputes between consumers and traders in the furniture, home improvement and retail industries. A trader must be a member of The Furniture Ombudsman to benefit from the ADR service.
Alternative Dispute Resolution comes in a variety of different forms allowing the parties the flexibility to choose the method most suited to their dispute. These range from more formal arbitration proceedings; face to face negotiations assisted by a mediator or conciliation and are defined as ‘the process of adjusting or settling disputes in a friendly manner through extra judicial means’.
A change in the law
In April 1999, following a report by Lord Woolf (known as the Woolf Reforms), the Civil Procedure Rules were implemented with the aim of freeing up the court system by encouraging early settlement.
The rules allowed pre-action protocols, active case management and cost penalties for those who did not consider an alternative to court proceedings or refused to negotiate.
Alternative Dispute Resolution proved key to achieving this aim, in that it provides speedier, less expensive and fairer access to justice.
The preferred route
The advice given by the Ministry of Justice (called Practice Direction on Pre-action Conduct) states that starting court proceedings should be a measure of last resort.
This means that a court could take a dim view of starting proceedings without attempting to settle via an alternative method, such as TFO, at least in the first instance. In addition, a court may require evidence that the parties did consider some form of ADR and continue to try to resolve matters by reaching a settlement at all times.
One of the successes of the Civil Procedure Rules is the necessity for parties to cooperate, which runs contrary to the adversarial concept of a legal trial and instead encourages a more amicable approach to negotiations.
Want to know more?
The Furniture Ombudsman runs accredited training courses where you can learn more about Alternative Dispute Resolution. Find out more here.
Inspire consumer confidence – join us today!
The Furniture Ombudsman currently has a pool of members which extends to over 8,000 retail, furniture and home improvement outlets in the United Kingdom, in addition to providing ADR services for consumer of Which? Trusted traders. All of its Full Members pledge to abide by a Code of Practice which bestows additional rights on the consumers who shop with them. Most of the UK’s biggest traders in the retail, furniture and home improvement pledge their support for the scheme.
Membership with The Furniture Ombudsman helps to highlight a trader’s responsible working practices, providing consumers with additional protection for peace of mind.