Small Claims and Business to Business disputes
Mediation is now strongly encouraged before issuing a claim in the small claims courts, and for consumer complaints. In this context they often use the term ADR (Alternative dispute Resolution). It may not be quite “Relationship counselling for the consumer” as coined by the BBC on its Watchdog pages, but it can indeed provide a much more satisfactory outcome if you are heading into the court system. Failing to even think about it can also result in penalising court costs. However sadly the information service Small Claims Court Genie offers this advice:
"Please note that just because you tick the box on the directions questionnaire saying that you wish to mediate, it does not mean that mediation will actually happen. It requires both parties to the dispute to agree to it. There is also the risk that the court service will be unable to arrange a mediation before the trial date. The court should however, put the proceedings on hold or hold off setting a trial date until the mediation has taken place."
"A word of warning. The feedback we receive is that the small claims mediation can be very difficult to get hold of. Persistence may be the key so if you want to engage the service, get in touch early and keep calling."
We do indeed feel sad to see this, but hear it is often true. Many mediation services do indeed leave it up to the parties themselves to agree to mediate- which considering they are often in an entrenched dispute is not always easy.
As we have broad experience of mediating we take a different approach and it’s the approach that is used in family and community mediation and many workplace disputes. This is that from the outset we take on the role of contacting each party and talking them through the process, the pros and cons of mediating and take it from there.
We are far from a day when all mediation practice is aligned with common principles, but as we work across the sectors we are in quite a unique position to critically reflect on our service delivery in all our areas of work.