Dispute Resolution FAQ


Q: How can your BBB assist in resolving disputes?
A: BBB offers several ways to help resolve a dispute including conciliation, mediation and arbitration.

Q: What is conciliation?
A: In BBB conciliation, staff collects information from all parties and passes along explanations and offers made by either side to solve the problem. Conciliation frequently settles the matter simply and quickly.

Q: Is there a cost for using BBB's conciliation services?
A: This service is provided free of charge.

Q: How does a consumer start the process?
A: Simply mail, fax or fill out our online complaint form. Outline the reasons why you are dissatisfied and what you would consider to be a fair resolution.

Q: What is BBB's role in conciliation?
A: BBB acts as a neutral third party and facilitates communication between the consumer and the business. Your BBB will forward the complaint to the business and will request a response from the firm. We will pass along the company's response and any settlement offers. Once the conciliation process is completed, the nature of both the complaint and the outcome will become a matter of public record for a period of three years.

Q: What happens if a firm refuses to respond to a letter of complaint forwarded to them by your BBB?
A: Companies who are not BBB Accredited Businesses are encouraged to respond to all consumer complaints but they sometimes refuse our efforts to conciliate. Such a refusal is reportable to the public and negatively affects their rating for a period of three years. BBB Accredited Businesses are obligated to respond to letters of complaint, which are forwarded by BBB. Refusal to respond by a BBB Accredited Business will result in termination of the accreditation and will negatively affect their rating.

Q: What is Mediation?
A: Mediation is assisted negotiation. It is an opportunity for parties to meet with a professionally trained mediator for the purpose of trying to resolve the dispute in a way that is agreeable to all concerned.

Q: How does it work at BBB?
A: Your BBB will solicit agreement from all parties to participate in a mediation session. If obtained, the parties are required to sign an agreement to mediate. By signing this document, participants agree to be respectful, work co-operatively and conduct themselves within the bounds of common courtesy. They also agree to carry out the terms of any settlement reached. A typical mediation takes two or three hours, although more time may be necessary.

Q: What is the role of the Mediator?
A: Mediators help people involved in a dispute to talk with each other and gain greater insights into the dispute in which they are involved. As the facts and circumstances concerning the dispute are brought out into the open, the mediator works with the parties to help discover possible ways the conflict may be resolved. The mediator manages the session but does not decide what should be done to resolve the problem. The people involved in the dispute decide for themselves what actions will occur, time frames, and other important details.

Q: What type of disputes can be mediated through BBB?
A: Your BBB will mediate a vast array of marketplace disputes. BBB does not mediate family or criminal matters.

Q: How do I prepare for a mediation?
A: Participants should come prepared to discuss every element of the dispute in detail. Full disclosure and confidentiality are encouraged in mediations as it increases the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Q: What is arbitration?
A: Arbitration is a process by which disputants state their views, offer evidence and let an impartial neutral third party make a legally binding decision that will end the dispute. The issues and the types of awards that an arbitrator may consider are outlined in a document called an Agreement to Arbitrate. Your BBB will create an Agreement to Arbitrate based on information by the disputants.

Q: Who are the arbitrators?
A: BBB maintains a pool of qualified arbitrators.  They are respected members of the community who have been fully trained to offer their talent as a community service. We will suggest the names of three or more, and provide a brief biography on each individual.  Each party may assign a priority to those names and cross out any they find unacceptable. Ultimately the disputants determine who will arbitrate their case.

Q: Who can attend the arbitration hearing?
A: Only those persons having a direct interest in the controversy may attend a hearing. Legal counsel may represent you, although it is not a requirement. Arbitration is a private proceeding, unlike a court hearing.

Q: Is the decision binding?
A: Yes, it has the same effect as a court judgement.