User experiences

This research investigated the experiences of people who used alternative dispute resolution to resolve consumer disputes. The research was funded by Citizens Advice and conducted by Chris Gill, Naomi Creutzfeldt, Jane Williams, and Nial Vivian. The research found three key themes.

The ADR landscape is confusing for consumers.

There are now more ADR schemes than ever. While this is not a problem in itself and has improved coverage, it has further added to the complexity facing consumers. And there remain significant gaps and overlaps. Where there are gaps, consumers are left without remedy. Where there are overlaps, consumers are left confused.

The current ADR landscape is not designed with consumers’ needs in mind.

Except where ADR is mandatory, businesses have the power both to decide whether to take part in ADR and, if so, which ADR scheme to use. In some sectors, multiple ADR schemes compete with each other. The result is that consumers’ needs are not being met. Often consumers do not know where to complain.

Improving ADR provision is hampered by a lack of good quality data.

Simply describing the UK’s ADR landscape is a complex task. Information is not readily available and there is significant variation between ADR schemes in terms of transparency. Lack of good quality comparative data makes tackling the shortfalls in ADR provision more difficult. It also means that feedback loops that might improve business practice are less likely to be present. Overall, it means that ensuring consumer needs are met is difficult to assess and assure.