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The European Union has introduced a new Directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The aim of the Directive is to encourage the use of ADR throughout Europe and provide European consumers with an alternative method of redress, away from the courts.
The Directive provides specific criteria and the level of standards that ADR services must provide, creating unified levels of service across all member states. The standards for ADR will therefore be of the same quality for every type of contractual dispute between a consumer and a business. The Directive does enable member states however, to nationally decide on how ADR processes should be regulated and what body will certify ADR providers when reaching the set criteria required under the Directive; this body will also monitor providers and ensure standards are maintained.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has been in charge of implementing the new ADR Directive (for the UK) and has appointed the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) as the regulatory body that will oversee and certify ADR providers.
As you will be aware, as part of NFDA membership, members have access to the National Conciliation Service (NCS), which provides ADR for NFDA members and their customers in the event of an unresolved dispute. The RMI is applying to TSI for certification, which when gained will confirm that the NCS complies with the Directives’ standards. The NCS is expected to fully comply with the Directive and be certified from 9 July 2015.
The NFDA considers the NCS to be an important member benefit that aids members if disputes cannot be resolved through their internal processes. The NCS is a cost effective alternative to the court system that employs case handlers and appoints independent adjudicators with industry expertise and experience.
Whilst the Directive does not oblige member states’ businesses to provide their consumers with ADR services, it does provide that businesses must make consumers aware that ADR services are available and in operation throughout the country. It is with this in mind that the NFDA would strongly encourage members to use and promote the service should a dispute require.
The NCS can be contacted on 01788 538317.