When consumers encounter problems securing redress for unsatisfactory goods or services Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may be used to settle the dispute.
ADR dispute resolution covers sales and service contracts only.
The ADR Directive does not apply to:
- Disputes between traders
- Direct negotiation between the consumer and the trader
- Procedures initiated by a trader against a consumer
The main benefits of ADR for consumers are:
The Irish ADR platform comes in the form of the European Consumer Centre Ireland, which maintains a list of the authorised ADR entities available in Ireland.
The ADR procedure is free of charge or available at a nominal fee and lasts up to 90 calendar days from the date on which the ADR entity has received the complaint.
Parties can communicate directly, advised by ADR entity & receive expert opinions on the nature of the complaint, opinions of experts, even without the assistance of a solicitor.
ADR includes the following procedures via public ombudsmen, complaints boards and private entities.
- Mediation: a private and confidential dispute resolution process in which an independent third party, the mediator, seeks to assist the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement. It is a voluntary and non-binding process that may however become binding if and when a settlement is reached.
- Conciliation: similar to mediation, it is an advisory and confidential structured process in which an independent third party, called the conciliator, actively assists the parties in their attempt to reach, on a voluntary basis, a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their dispute. A conciliator may, at any stage in the conciliation process, make a proposal to the parties to resolve the dispute, but he or she is not empowered to impose such a proposal on the parties.
- Arbitration: a means of dispute resolution whereby the disputing parties submit their dispute to a neutral third party for determination. Unlike mediation or conciliation, an independent and impartial third party is empowered to make a decision. The arbitrator hears the disagreement between one or more parties and after considering all the relevant information renders a final decision (award). Arbitration bodies typically have the power to make legally binding decisions, meaning that awards may be enforceable through the courts upon application.
ADR in Ireland
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is the competent authority in Ireland for the purposes of ADR. Find out more about its role here. The Commission maintains a register of authorised ADR entities and reports on the use of ADR in Ireland to the European Commission.
ECC Ireland is tasked with the provision of information and assistance to Irish consumers on how to access ADR entities competent to deal with cross-border disputes.