Dispute Resolution Mediation Rules and Guide

Your BBB may offer three major dispute resolution options.
  1. Conciliation: In conciliation, the BBB staff helps the customer and business communicate so they can resolve their dispute informally.
    BBB staff will provide information about the complaint to the business and pass along offers made by either side to solve the problem.

    They can effectively present the customer's views to the business and offer the business' viewpoint to the customer in a neutral way. Conciliation, which usually occurs by telephone or mail, frequently settles the matter simply and quickly.

  2. Mediation: In mediation, a professionally trained mediator meets with the parties and guides them in working out their own mutually agreeable solutions.
    During the confidential mediation session, the BBB mediator clarifies and reframes problems and helps the two sides talk with each other and discuss solutions. Mediators don't decide who is right or wrong. Instead, they help people reach a solution on their own one that works best for them.

  3. Arbitration: In arbitration, the parties state their views at an arbitration hearing, offer evidence, and let an impartial third party from the BBB's pool of certified arbitrators make the decision that will end the dispute.
    The arbitrator is trained to listen to both sides and weigh the evidence presented at the hearing. The arbitrator will make a decision about the dispute after the hearing is over.

    Arbitration is a fast and inexpensive way to settle a problem and keep it out of court.

What is a BBB?
Your BBB is a nonprofit organization supported by local businesses. It is dedicated to promoting satisfaction with the marketplace by encouraging voluntary adherence to ethical business practices and by providing services to the public.

The BBB assists in the resolution of disputes between a business and its customers. BBBs have a national reputation for fairness because they remain neutral in a dispute. They do not take sides but work to get the problem settled as quickly as possible.

If you have a marketplace dispute, the BBB can offer you several ways to resolve it. This may include conciliation and/or arbitration. Another dispute resolution (DR) option is mediation: a BBB staff member or a third party from the BBB's roster of professionally trained mediators will assist you and the other party in working out a mutually agreeable solution.

Advantages of mediation
Mediation is a fast, inexpensive way to resolve a dispute. Mediation offers both the customer and the business:

  • A chance to be heard:
    Mediators are trained to listen and to ask the right questions. In a mediation session, everyone has the opportunity to speak without interruption and to share "their side of the story". In some cases, it is the first time the parties will have the opportunity to sit down and really listen to each other.
  • A chance to develop new ways of thinking about a problem:
    A mediator can:
    • break a large problem down into smaller parts that are easier to handle.
    • restate the issues so both sides can see them in a new way.
    • help each side see the other's point of view.
    • assist people in taking a realistic look at their dispute and the kinds of solutions that are possible.
    • help people to recognize what is really at issue and not to dig in their heels about a particular position.
  • A chance for the parties to develop their own solutions:
    Participation in mediation is voluntary, and a solution is not imposed on the parties. Mediation is a flexible way of resolving disagreements. One of the greatest benefits of mediation is that the parties work together to discuss their dispute, generate ideas for resolving it, and decide together what the solution will be. By finding their own solution to their dispute, the parties are more likely to follow through on the agreement.

    Often, people think of mediation as a time for compromise, or having to give up something they want. This is not necessarily the case. When disputing parties have a chance to hear each other, they often find creative ways to resolve the dispute by collaborating, and not compromising.

The mediator's role
When you enter into mediation, the BBB will select a mediator for your case. All mediators are fair and impartial. A mediator does not have personal or business ties to either party in the dispute that could interfere with the impartial nature of the mediation session.

Mediators help people involved in a dispute talk with each other about the conflict so each party can better understand why the conflict exists. As the facts and circumstances concerning the dispute are brought into the open, the mediator works with the parties to help discover possible ways the conflict can be resolved.

The mediator manages the mediation session but does not decide what should be done to solve the problem. The people involved in the dispute decide for themselves what actions will occur, time frames, and other important details. The agreement is written by the mediator with the help of the parties, and is signed by all parties to the dispute.

The mediation session
The mediation session takes place at a location designated by the BBB. We arrange for a mutually convenient time and place for the first mediation session after consultation with all parties. Confirmation of the appointment is made a week in advance of the first mediation session. All principal parties identified in the complaint must attend the session.

The BBB shall provide you with an Agreement to Mediate. The Agreement to Mediate describes the agreement between the BBB as provider of mediation services and the parties. By signing the Agreement to Mediate, you agree that the Rules of Mediation and the Agreement to Mediate have been explained to you.

You may bring legal counsel to the session; however, parties are expected to speak for themselves. During the mediation session, you may ask for a recess to consult with legal counsel.

You may also elect to bring other people with you to the mediation such as witnesses, experts, or a friend or family member. However, the mediator will decide who may remain in the room during the confidential mediation session.

The mediator conducts the mediation session. The mediator will first speak with you and the other party together. Then the mediator may speak with each of you separately. After this, the mediator will help you discuss your disagreement with the other party and assist you in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of your complaint.

A typical mediation session takes two to three hours, although more time may be necessary. Most customer business mediations involve one session, but additional sessions can be scheduled as needed.

In preparing for your mediation, be sure to bring copies of all relevant papers, photos, samples, exhibits, or anything else that would be helpful for the other party or the mediator to see in order to better understand your side of the dispute. The Rules of Mediation specify that you are making a good faith effort to resolve the dispute and that you are willing to provide all information necessary to help resolve the issues in disagreement.

The mediator is there to help you. Feel free to speak earnestly about your own perspective, but avoid accusing or attacking the other party. This only prolongs the dispute and hinders the chance of reaching a solution. At no time will the mediator try to assign blame or responsibility to one party. As an impartial third party, the mediator will focus the parties on the future rather than dwell on events of the past that led to the dispute.

If you need an interpreter for your mediation session, the BBB will make every effort to locate an appropriate interpreter for you.

The BBB makes every effort to assist persons with disabilities. If you require special assistance, please let us know at the time your mediation is being scheduled.

BBB Rules Of Mediation

  1. Confidentiality
    All conversations and materials produced during the mediation sessions are confidential. The parties will not disclose any information about what is happening in mediation without the approval of the mediator and the other party. You also agree not to subpoena the mediator or BBB employees in any subsequent legal proceeding.
  2. Good faith effort
    You agree to make a good faith effort to mediate your disagreement with the other party. In doing so, you agree to work cooperatively with the other party and the mediator by discussing the dispute and by helping to work toward an agreeable resolution.
  3. Full disclosure
    You are expected to provide all information necessary to help resolve your disagreement with the other party. The mediator will determine what information is necessary.
  4. Common courtesy
    All participants will conduct themselves within the bounds of common courtesy. Name calling, foul or abusive language and the like will impede the mediation's success, and may compel the mediator to cancel the mediation session.
  5. Legal counsel
    Mediators may not give legal advice. You may retain legal counsel of your choice. If a legal issue arises, the mediator may ask you to consult with your attorney.
  6. Expert opinion
    It may be necessary to seek expert advice during mediation. The mediator may direct either or both parties to obtain expert advice at any time during the mediation session. Likewise, the mediator may also contact experts directly.
  7. Voluntary process
    Mediation is a voluntary procedure. While the mediator will make every effort to help you reach a resolution to your dispute, you are under no obligation to reach an agreement with the other party. Either party involved in the dispute may decide to have the mediation session ended at any time with proper notice to the BBB.
  8. Liability
    The parties agree that the mediators, the CBBB and  the  BBB, including its employees, will not be liable for any act or omission in connection with the mediation.