Resolving a dispute with a trader

Alternative Dispute Resolution is a quicker and cheaper alternative to court, where consumers and businesses can resolve their disputes.

Our Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme is available to consumers who are in dispute with a business in relation to goods or services they have bought.

You may appoint a third-party to assist you at any stage in the process. Where you do so, they will have to register their details with us as a representative and you will have to provide your consent for them to act on your behalf.

You must get the agreement of the business to participate in the scheme before you apply. If the business does not agree, you cannot apply.

Read more about what is expected of the business when you initiate Alternative Dispute Resolution.

To use this service:

  • you must have exhausted the business's complaints process
  • your dispute must not have already been referred to the courts or another certified alternative dispute resolution provided
  • you must apply to our service within 12 months of the trader indicating that they were unable or unwilling to resolve the matter through their internal complaints process
  • the value of the claim must be between £100 and £40,000
  • the dispute is not deemed to be frivolous or vexatious in nature
  • you must apply in English and accept that the process will be conducted in English
  • you must be an EU resident.

Before you apply

You must contact the business you are in dispute with and get their agreement to participate in the Alternative Dispute Resolution process. You cannot apply if the business doesn't agree to participate. Contact Citizens Advice consumer service via Citizens Advice website or on 03454 04 05 06 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) to find out what options are available to you. ​

Ways to apply

To apply by post,

  • apply by post or email using our application form (PDF, 82.1 KB) and return to:
    Kent County Council ADR, 8 Abbey Wood Road, Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent, ME19 4YT.

Cost

You will need to pay an administration fee of:

  • £15 (including VAT) for claims up to £1,000
  • £35 (including VAT) for claims over £1,000.

This must be paid by the end of the next working day after submitting your application and is non-refundable. If we do not receive payment within 7 days, we will delete your application and evidence.

The business will also need to pay a fee to continue your claim. The amount will depend on the claim value. View the cost to the business which is different to your fee.

Types of evidence

You can submit evidence to support your application. Examples of evidence include:

  • the contract between you and the business you are in dispute with
  • a report from an independent, qualified professional like a surveyor, architect, engineer or similar
  • photographs
  • signed witness statements
  • correspondence between you and the business
  • correspondence between you and other parties about the dispute
  • official reports (for example, from a planning officer, building control officer or a police officer)
  • electronic media, such as video.

Your evidence, and any evidence provided by the business, is the only information used to inform the decision so please make sure you include everything and that the copies are legible.

We are unable to return evidence to you.

If you have any questions about the application process please email adr@kent.gov.uk.

A copy of your application and evidence will be sent to the business. The business will have 7 days from when they receive your application to submit their evidence. Paper applications will take longer to process than online applications.

You and the business will both see the evidence supplied by each other and will be given the opportunity to comment on it and provide further evidence in relation to it.

We will notify you and the business when all the evidence has been received. We will make our decision and communicate it to both parties within 28 days of receiving all of the evidence. If the case is so complex that it will take longer than 28 days, we will notify both you and the business and provide an estimated time frame for our work.

We will consider all of the evidence and reach a conclusion based on the principles of fairness, equity, relevant law and trade standards. Our decision will be based on the written evidence alone. We won't ask you or the trader to give spoken evidence and we won't follow up with witnesses. We will make an adjudication solely on the evidence and award financial recompense if appropriate.

The onus is on you and the business to be clear, transparent and honest. Where there is evidence of dishonesty by either the business or by you then this may be taken into account by the adjudicator and the matter may be reported to the police.

We will produce a written report and conclusion. If you applied online we will send your report by email. If you applied by post we will send it by post.

If we find in your favour we may include costs you have incurred in securing evidence in your award.  It is important that you set out these costs when you apply.

The outcome is not binding on you as a consumer. The outcome is binding on the business only if there is a legal requirement for them to be bound or if it is a condition of their membership of a trade association or similar body that they agree to be bound.

Should you or the business not accept our decision and the matter ends up before a court, the court may take into account our findings in reaching their conclusions.

You and the business may withdraw from the process at any time. Only businesses that have a legal duty to participate as a condition of their membership of a trade association or similar body cannot withdraw.

Your personal information

For the purposes of the Alternate Dispute Resolution Scheme you will need to give us your name, address, phone number and email address on the application form.

We will keep your personal details on our secure database and at this stage we will only share them with the business you are in dispute with. We will delete your application, including your personal details, from our database if we do not receive the fee from you and/or the business.

If payment is received from you and the business, we will share your application with the adjudicator to make a decision. Outside of the ADR scheme we will only show your application to bodies responsible for auditing the scheme for the purposes of the accreditation. Your application, including the adjudicator’s decision, will be kept on our secure database for 6 years before being deleted.

How the scheme operates

This scheme is owned and run by Kent County Council and is totally independent. For administrative purposes it is housed within Kent County Council's Public Protection service.

The scheme is fully accredited by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer disputes (Competent Authorities and information) Regulations 2015.

Our scheme is led and managed by a Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner.

Officials employed by the scheme will assess the evidence presented to them and form a judgement with regard to the most effective means of resolving the dispute. Our officials are all Trading Standards professionals with appropriate qualifications and experience in relation to consumer law, assessment of evidence and decision making. Officials are remunerated from the scheme’s resources on a fixed fee basis and are not incentivised in any way beyond this.

When considering your case our adjudicators will take into account the following principles: the law, any known industry standards, fairness and equity.

Consumers may withdraw from the process at any time. Business may withdraw at any time unless there is a legal duty on them to participate or it is a condition of their membership of a trade association or similar body that they participate.

The outcome is not binding on the consumer. The outcome is binding on the business only if there is a legal requirement for them to be bound or if it is a condition of your membership of a trade association or similar body that they agree to be bound.

Read the scheme rules and procedure (PDF, 239.8 KB).

View the process (PDF, 9.9 KB).

Read the 2017 Alternative Dispute annual report (PDF, 133.7 KB)

We abide by the regulations for Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes.

If you have any further questions, email adr@kent.gov.uk or call 03000 415100.

Our officials

NameTitleRole
Mark Rolfe Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner ADR Manager
Tammy Carroll Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner ADR Official
Gina Douglas Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner ADR Official
Caroline Elliott Principal Trading Standards Officer ADR Official
Peter Stonely Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner ADR Official
Richard Strawson Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner ADR Official