Delays at court? Try Modern Dispute Resolution instead
I spoke at the ABTA Redefining Customer Service in Travel Conference today and fielded an interesting question from a (leading) travel lawyer that I thought I would share.
I was asked whether there had been any service delays caused by the pandemic. I explained in answer that because the service runs predominantly via use of a portal, we were if anything geared well to cope with the pandemic and had not seen any changes to service delivery at all, other than by design (we have extended deadlines in certain areas to allow parties more time to submit certain documentation and evidence). Arbitrators themselves have not been given more time, so an award pre pandemic needed to be issued with 28 days of receipt of all relevant information, and that is the case now. This is achieved in the vast majority of cases, as it was pre pandemic.
Once I answered the lawyer commented that the reason he had asked the question was due to the fact that the situation is not the same in the courts, and he wanted to see if there was a comparison between the arbitration service and the courts in relation to service levels. It is clear that arbitration is, as we have always maintained, a far more time efficient method of dispute resolution than the courts, especially during the pandemic, where court dates are shifting like sands.
The significance of this finding is not confined to travel disputes only. I found myself asking myself (as I sometimes do, its one of the biproducts of working alone) why on earth would someone want to use the courts at the moment to resolve a commercial business dispute, or even the small claims court for a consumer dispute with a business? There are the usual advantages and disadvantages to both systems, but in the current circumstances the fact that mediation and arbitration can be used at your convenience, rather than at the courts inconvenience, is a major shift towards their continued emergence not as alternative dispute resolution techniques, but as the norm.
So I have to end with a message. Where you can, do consider mediation and arbitration rather than the courts. Of course, I would prefer you use Hunt ADR in those circumstances but if not, then use whoever you feel comfortable with, just give these Modern Dispute Resolution techniques the opportunity to resolve your dispute more quickly, less expensively and on your own terms (in the case of mediation) or by the judgement of an expert (in the case of arbitration).