Small Claims Dispute Resolution
Roy van den Brink Budgen
Why use the ASM Plus small claims online dispute resolution service?
Would you like to have a timely, cost-effective small claims mediation service delivered by a highly skilled team offered at competitive rates? ASM Plus offers an excellent, moderately priced service. Using this service will:
- Save you from a lot of complicated form filling
- Save hours of your valuable time that can be put to more productive use
- Save considerable sums of money
Two options are offered:
- A three hour online mediation service
- The alternative of a three hour online facilitated discussion
Using the ASM Plus small claims dispute resolution service is offered using Skype/Zoom online software. Using online communication software means that parties to particular disputes do not have to travel and individual mediations can be arranged at mutually convenient times.
As well as being very convenient, ASM Plus’s fees are modest. Cases that may otherwise be too expensiveor time-consuming can be very resolved within a short space of time. In most instances, the mediator will spend a proportion of the time speaking with the parties separately, something that can be managed very effectively using online software. ASM Plus’s highly skilled and expert mediators and facilitators are completely neutral. They encourage the parties in mediation to be frank and look at matters objectively and dispassionately.
“The mediators without any doubt added very significant value and helped us avoid what would have been potentially very significant legal costs. Without their help I doubt we could have got a sensible conversation between us and the defendant”.
“Excellent Service from a dedicated and well-informed group of individuals! Certainly recommend their services!”
“Expert practical advice from an approachable team of professionals with experience of responding to dispute resolution”
“The way in which the nature of critical thinking was clarified by Roy was shown to be of considerable value in the way in which we looked again at our decision-making process”
What is mediation and what are the advantages?
Mediation enables an independent, neutral mediator to help individuals and organisations resolve disputes without the significant time, cost, uncertainty and stress of going to court. Disputes and disagreements that would otherwise take months or years to sort out can be very effectively resolved in a fraction of this time and at a very reasonable cost. Online mediation can be arranged even more quickly than face to face mediation.
The costs savings of online mediation are very significant. Parties share an initial one-off fee and there are no additional costs. By contrast, under the small claims court procedure, aside from having to pay an initial court fee there is often an additional fee, and parties in modest value cases still spend large amounts of time on them.
ASM Plus’s highly skilled and expert mediators and facilitators are completely neutral and encourage the parties in mediation to be frank and look at matters objectively and dispassionately.
The ASM Plus Small Claims Mediation Service is provided by:
“Paul is a highly skilled professional mediator. He helped us resolve a really difficult issue with skill and humour. I can’t recommend him highly enough.”
“He has always been hugely impressive in terms of legal knowledge and commercial awareness.”
“A successful mediation aided very well by Mr King.”
“Russ has a very positive attitude and always applies himself fully to the task in hand.”
“A fantastic lawyer with the perfect disposition for mediation. Highly recommended”
What are the costs savings?
|Cost for filing papers with the court||Court fee|
|claiming £2000||Initial fee of either £105 or £115 plus additional fees as the case progresses|
|claiming between £5000 and £10,000||fee of either £410 or £455 plus additional fees as the case progresses|
|claiming between £10000 and £20,000||fee of either £410 or £455 plus additional fees as the case progresses|
Assuming the case progresses, further fees may be payable and because claimants cannot assume that they will be successful, there is no guarantee that they will be able to recover either compensation or any court fees that may have been paid. Additionally, time expended by someone running a business who acts in person has a real cost. Time spent pursuing a court claim means time not spent on running a business and earning money.
Can goodwill and effectiveness be maintained with online, small claims mediations?
In practice people are much more likely to adhere to the terms of a mediated settlement that they have agreed, and which has not been imposed on them by a court. In addition, particularly in cases where there may be animosity, in online mediations people find themselves on a level playing field so they feel less intimidated and are more likely to engage promptly and meaningfully.
How does online, small claims mediation save time?
|Progressing a “small claim” through the courts||Online mediation|
|Can take months. 3 – 4 months is not uncommon, often longer||As little as two weeks|
|Time spent – 10 hours is a reasonable estimate||Around four hours including preliminary telephone discussions between the mediator, a short sequence of email correspondence and a three-hour mediation.|
How does online, small claims mediation minimise stress?
Online, small claims mediation ensures that the stress that goes hand-in-hand with court proceedings is kept to an absolute minimum. In addition, there are reduced costs, travel time and mutually convenient timings. In cases where there is anxiety or ill feeling, the absence of face-to-face can greatly help progress discussions
What are the success rates for online, small claims mediations?
The success rate is very high. Typically, 90% of cases that go to mediation are resolved very satisfactorily.
How does ASM Plus help individuals, organisations and businesses prevent disputes arising in the first place or minimise the chances of them recurring? – Facilitated Meetings with the special ingredient of Critical Thinking
In some cases, a facilitated meeting will provide a very effective alternative to mediation. Like mediation, it can relieve you from the stress of paperwork and save you considerable amounts of time and money that can be better used. Whereas mediation is normally used for helping disputing parties who have a significant level of disagreement, facilitated meetings in which the parties meet face-to-face are a very good option in circumstances where:
- there may already be some level of agreement;
- parties are comfortable doing so;
- a disagreement may be at an early stage and those involved have recognised that there is an issue and want to try and get it resolved before things get out of hand;
- they may wish to preserve an existing business or personal relationship.
The special ingredient that ASM Plus provides is Critical Thinking (CT) which has been very effectively devised and used in the business, public and educational and charitable sectors by one of its team members, Dr Roy van den Brink Budgen. This process which our facilitators use very effectively helps those in attendance to understand, interpret, evaluate, and develop balanced and objective reasoning so that:
- they can clarify reasoning (how claims are used), by focusing on assumptions being made and by considering possible interpretations of evidence;
- they can encourage the thinking of other possibilities (in that CT has a powerfully creative element to it);
- they can look at the production of criteria which can be used to evaluate claims that are made;
- by demonstrating the advantages of dialogue, they can foster the development of sustained purposeful interaction in many contexts.
The importance of the skills of CT is given even greater emphasis by the dispositions that make up its other part. These dispositions include the value of seeing both sides of an issue, having respect for alternative viewpoints, being open-minded, and seeing the value of using reason in justifying positions. Accordingly, the use of both the skills and dispositions makes CT a very powerful instrument for decision-making in general and for dispute resolution in particular.
The Critical Thinking Process
Richard Branson has said that ‘Critical thinking is the key to critical problem-solving in business’, whilst John Baldoni (a leadership development expert) states that ‘If you want to succeed in 21st-century business, you need to become a critical thinker’.
“Excellent Service from a dedicated and well-informed group of individuals! Certainly, recommend their services!”
Roy van den Brink Budgen – Highly accomplished Critical Thinker, Facilitator, Business Advisor and Educational Expert.
“The importance of clear and productive thinking that using a critical thinking approach can deliver was very much highlighted in Roy’s work with us”
Paul Sandford – Director of ASMPlus, Mediator, Facilitator, Tribunal Judge and Solicitor.
“The breadth of Paul’s expertise and knowledge is very impressive and ensures that he is able to quickly grasp the key issues, salient points and find the best way forward to achieve optimal solutions and results.”
Nicole Godetz – Facilitator, Business Advice and Educational Expert.
“An objective view point is something that that can be lost in a small business so Nicole’s input has been EXTREMELY effective”
Russell Shackleton Facilitator, (IDC) Mediator, Master of Business Administration (MBA) And Business Expert
“His approach is to be an un-blocker using audit and compliance to enhance business, not restrict it. He is able to advise at all levels and works through building collaboration.”
Online Facilitated Meetings
Whereas mediation normally involves parties in conflict, facilitated meetings do not necessarily do so. Although a facilitator will work with a group to reach an agreed decision, the members of the group may not start with opposing positions and might well use this option to stop conflict arising. It might be, of course, that during the facilitated meeting, disagreements emerge about aspects of the decision-making (such as disputes over what is relevant, what evidence is significant, what assumptions should be made, and so on), and these will be examined during the meeting.
How do ASM Plus’s three hour online facilitated meetings work?
A facilitator convenes a discussion between parties, who would typically be present for the whole process. There needs to be willingness from all parties to participate and the points agreed will be written up for all to sign. Experience teaches us that in many instances three hours is sufficient for agreements to be facilitated in relatively modest value disputes.
So why is on line facilitation cost effective?
Facilitation can avoid court costs, it can build up relationships, create visionary or reflective clarity of business direction and improve work performance, none of which could be achieved at anything approaching our charges or within the timescale that we suggest. Also, like online mediation, facilitated meetings are time efficient, have a very high success rate and
Compare the ASM Plus online mediation and facilitated meetings with the small claims court:
SPEED A mediation or facilitated meeting can be arranged in 14 days. You could be waiting 6 months for a small claims hearing
FLEXIBILITY You can mediate or meet on line without leaving your home. Appointments can be made to suit the times and needs of parties. Travel and waiting times which can incur very significant costs, especially to businesses, are avoided. By contrast small claims hearings sometimes don’t even go ahead on the scheduled day and get adjourned resulting in further lengthy delays.
CONFIDENTIAL Mediation and facilitated meetings are confidential processes. Whilst small claims hearings usually take place in a judge’s private room, the judgment itself is a public document.
BINDING Both mediation/facilitated meeting settlements and court judgments are binding. If breached, separate action may need to be taken in court to enforce. However, in the case of mediation and facilitated meetings this is less likely to be needed as a) there has been agreement and b) it is possible to make any settlement itself conditional upon receipt of cleared funds. A small claims court judgement also affects credit ratings which can even make it difficult for some parties to raise the judgement sums awarded against them.
POSITIVE In court there has to be a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’. With mediation and facilitated meetings, it is possible to preserve relationships, which can be important when existing business contacts, family or friends are involved.
COST EFFECTIVE/SAVING YOU MONEY Court fees in small claims cases vary depending on the value of a particular claim and are set on a sliding scale. They will certainly exceed the cost of the small claims services offered by ASM Plus by at least three times for a claim value of £3000 where the court issue (as of September 2018) is £205 (reduced to £185 if using Money Claims Online system) and the hearing fee is £355 (total therefore £560). Additionally, there is the cost of legal advice which is often needed to navigate the court forms process as well as understand where you stand legally and how you need to present your case. Court fees are added to the debt owed to you if you are successful in court, but the cost of legal advice and representation is not generally recoverable.
MEDIATION CASE STUDIES
Tarquin and Golightly - A case study that clearly demonstrates why the ASM Plus Small Claims Mediation Service saves considerable amounts of money and time
Last year Tarquin, a young solicitor who works for a very eminent legal firm that attaches great importance to its employees behaving correctly at all times bought an expensive two-week skiing holiday package at the “Swiss Alpine Hotel” from Roustabout Travel, a mismanaged company which is owned by Robert Golightly.
As well as promising an excellent hotel and skiing facilities, the Roustabout’s brochure stated that the Swiss Alpine’s après ski facilities are excellent. Tarquin subsequently enjoys excellent meals and scheme facilities but otherwise the brochure was rather full of exaggerations and, with some justification, he considers that he has been misled. misled. Additionally, he made some inappropriate advances to the hotel manageress which were not well received.
On his return to the UK Tarquin issues proceedings in the County Court. His rather vague claim is limited to £3000 claiming damages for loss, disappointment, distress and inconvenience which means that it is dealt with as a small claim.
Having spoken to the aggrieved manageress Golightly makes it clear that he intends to “vigorously contest” the proceedings. He also deduces that Tarquin would not want his inappropriate knowledge towards the hotel manageress to become public knowledge.
Golightly is also very mindful that Roustabout travel has been the subject of a number of complaints. ABTA are keeping an eye on him and he needs to try to avoid any adverse publicity. He is all too aware that at some point Tarquin mentioned that he had been “surfing the complaints sections of the Internet” and was aware of ABTA’s concerns about Roustabout.
In his more objective moments Tarquin acknowledges that even if his claim succeeds, he is unlikely to be awarded very much money and that his £3000 claim is a little optimistic. Belatedly he comes to realise that in the light of his bad behaviour the last thing he wants is adverse publicity.
Four months after Tarquin files his claim during a brief preliminary court hearing a judge strongly hints that this is a case that would best be resolved through mediation. Initially Tarquin is a little aggrieved but the judge points out that the relevant, quite standardly worded contract allows for the possibility of either mediation or arbitration. The judge also refers to some decided cases and ventures the opinion that even if Tarquin were to succeed in respect of each and every aspect of his claim it is unlikely that he would be awarded more than “something in the region” of £800.00 in compensation. The judge strongly suggests that Mediation is the way forward. Tarquin and Golightly get the message and an online mediation is arranged.
In the course of a three-hour mediation, because they are free from the legal niceties that they would have had to observe in formal court proceedings, each party makes his position perfectly clear. Tarquin mentions that court proceedings would result in adverse publicity for Roustabout and given that some aspects of the brochure were very inaccurate, ABTA might very well investigate. Equally, Golightly emphasises Tarquin’s inappropriate behaviour and suggests that in the course of proceedings this might attract unwelcome publicity.
Privately, Tarquin concedes to the mediator that his behaviour towards the manageress was “a bit over the top”. Equally, Golightly privately admits that in some respects his brochure was “a bit inaccurate”. The net effect is that although they are both very reluctant to make any form of admission, each party is all too well aware of the deficiencies in their respective positions. The matter is settled on the basis that Tarquin accepts Golightly’s offer of a £1000.00 long weekend break in Ibiza.
Taking up the online option means that a reasonable, very cost-effective settlement has been negotiated. Tarquin notes that the matter has been resolved much more quickly than if the small claims procedure had been followed through to its conclusion. Golightly’s main regret is that mediation was not considered earlier. He is all too aware that even though the court small claims procedure is designed to be layperson friendly, he has still spent a disproportionate amount of time on it that he could have used more productively.
Costs incurred and time expended by Tarquin and Golightly in connection with the court proceedings
Initial court fee – £100.00
Court case related time spent over a period of four months
Initial research into the small claims system, downloading the relevant court documentation, completing the claim form filing it, and making payment –2 hours;
Subsequently in the course of making five telephone discussions with the court, some of which last as much as 30 minutes, preparing for the initial hearing, travelling to and from and waiting at court, and attending the short hearing, Tarquin spends around 4 1/2 hours and has to take some time off work that is counted against his annual leave entitlement. Also, Tarquin eventually calculates that because a good deal of his salary is paid in commission, as at the date of the preliminary hearing in real terms the case cost him around £350.00
If this matter was to go to trial a further court fee would be payable and it is likely that the attendant processes would take up another four or five hours of his time, this in a case where even if successful Tarquin would at best only be awarded a few hundred pounds. Roustabout’s finances are shaky and even if additional, costly and time-consuming court enforcement procedures are pursued, there is no guarantee that he would receive anything.
Initial Court Costs – nil but in running his business he works on the basis of a notional hourly rate of £50 per hour that was suggested by his accountant.
Court case related time spent over a period of four months
As at the end of the preliminary hearing, Golightly had spent an additional two hours researching the court small claims system, reading the documentation served on him, speaking to his solicitor (who luckily for him did not charge) and drafting and filing his response. Subsequent telephone conversations with the court, preparing for the initial hearing and the incidental travel and waiting time take up an additional three hours or so which means that in pure economic terms, to date the case has cost him between £250 and £300. Given that much of this time would have been used to generate revenue, in all probability his “loss” is much higher.
Time and money incurred in respect of the mediation
Mediation fee – £350.00 plus VAT divided equally between the two parties.
Liaison between the parties in respect of arranging the mediation which took place in the evening and paying the mediator – 30 minutes per party
Time spent in the mediation during which all matters are given a thorough airing and a mutually acceptable agreement is formulated, drafted and signed – 1.5 hours per party
The total time expended by the parties in respect of the court case up to and including the preliminary hearing was in excess of 10 hours.
The total time expended by the parties up to and including the conclusion of the mediation was around four hours. The mediation was promptly conducted on a Saturday when neither party was working and because it was conducted online, there was no additional travel or waiting time or transportation costs. Golightly has had to absorb the cost of the £1000 holiday but this by no means inconsistent with the level of compensation that he might otherwise have been ordered to pay.
A case Involving a dispute between a budget airline and a disabled passenger
Harry and Sally book a cheap return Stansted to Lorento flight with Last Resort Airways. For some years Sally has been very ill. She is barely able to walk and if she wishes to mobilise for anything more than a few metres she uses her self-propelled wheelchair. Any long-distance travelling is difficult for her but she feels a short holiday will do her good.
Harry has misgivings about flying with Last Resort but he and Sally have always wanted to go to Lorento and no other airline flies to an airport anywhere close to it. Before booking, Harry contacts Last Resort and asks what provision will be made for Sally. He is told by a senior manager, Mr Yesman, that there is no problem about her using her wheelchair and that when boarding and disembarking they will be given priority. Harry is concerned that because Lorento airport is very small, the facilities might be a little primitive. However, Mr Yesman tells him that the boarding and alighting arrangements at Lorento are the equivalent of those at Stansted. He also says that Sally’s in-flight needs will be accommodated in full and that there will be no additional charges. Harry asks Mr Yesman to record their conversation on the Last Resort computer notepad. When he subsequently books over the telephone he relays the gist of this conversation to the booking clerk, Miss Helpful. She checks her records, reiterates Mr Yesman’s assurances and says that Sally’s needs will be met in full.
On the date of departure Harry and Sally arrive at Stansted in good time. They discover that only three out of 15 Last Resort check-in desks are open and that there are hundreds of people queuing at them. Harry tries to enquire as to whether he and Sally can be prioritised but cannot find anyone to speak to. When he and Sally eventually reach a check-in desk they are confronted by a very stressed and rather abrupt booking clerk, Jonah, who checks his computer records and says that there is no mention of Sally being a wheelchair user or of having any special needs. He says that when it comes to boarding the aircraft, Sally will not be given any priority. He also says that her wheelchair is “extra” and that she has to pay “an excess charge” of £100.
Harry and Sally are incensed but Jonah is insistent and they pay up. When it comes to boarding the aircraft, pandemonium breaks out and Harry and Sally are lucky to get on at all. Although the flight crew are sympathetic, Harry and Sally have to sit apart during the three-hour flight. The disembarkation arrangements at Lorento are singularly lacking and at one-point Sally has to go through the indignity of being carried down a set of very rickety steps by four baggage handlers.
Fortunately, Harry and Sally have a very good holiday but the return flight is equally as nightmarish and they arrive home utterly demoralised. Her initial complaints are totally ignored. She contacts a charity that specialises in advising disabled travellers. Sally is advised she can issue a small claim in the County Court but that even though her case would probably be fast tracked, in practice the process could take months, that it is likely that Last Resort will use every single means at its disposal to delay matters and that if she is successful any court order will probably be ignored. The advisor mentions that in the past Last Resort has been willing to agree to mediation and recommends that Sally pursues this option before issuing proceedings.
In the course of the online ASM PLUS mediation which takes place a couple of weeks later Last Resort’s chief executive, Mr Stonewall attends in person in order to as he puts it, “ensure that his airline’s interests are protected.” During the brief initial joint session, he is very bullish and claims that even though Last Resort’s website makes reference to “a disabled charter”, in giving the assurances that they did, Mr Yesman and Miss Helpful were acting outside their authority and that the airline cannot be held responsible. He also makes it clear that he considers that Harry and Sally should be grateful that his airline had been prepared to transport them so cheaply to such an obscure destination. Harry and Sally make it clear they expect to receive a full apology plus compensation and safe in the knowledge that the impartial mediator has emphasised that she expects all concerned to behave appropriately, they make it clear that they will not be intimidated by Mr Stonewall.
In the course of the private sessions that follow, Mr Stonewall concedes to the mediator that on the day of Harry and Sally’s departure, everything that could possibly go wrong at Stansted, went wrong. He accepts that in most respects Mr Yesman and Miss Helpful acted correctly and explains that on the day in question the Last Resort computer system was not working properly. He admits that Jonah is a new employee who despite being untrained, had being drafted into work at Stansted that day because of unforeseen staff shortages. Before then asking the mediator to tell Harry and Sally that he will give them an informal, confidential apology but nothing more, Mr Stonewall also concedes that Mr Yesman’s appraisal of the facilities at Lorento airport was “a little overstated.”
Harry and Sally are unmoved. A second open session is convened and Harry makes it abundantly clear to Stonewall that he and Sally have time on their side and that they have no qualms about going to court. Sally politely and non-threateningly explains to Mr Stonewall that if the case does go to court, she will apply for witness summonses to be served on Mr Yesman and Miss Helpful and that she will also request the production of Last Resort’s computer records.
Mr Stonewall relents. He apologises to Harry and Sally and aside from agreeing to refund the £100 charge levied by Jonah, offers them a free return flight to any destination of choice with the proviso that they choose a destination with suitable facilities. He confirms he will personally ensure that their outward and return journeys are uneventful and that they do not encounter any of the difficulties they have outlined to him.
Additionally, although he will not commit anything to writing, Mr Stonewall indicates that he will instigate an immediate root and branch enquiry, partly into happened on the day of Harry and Sally’s outward flight but also to try and ensure that as he puts it, “there are no repeat performances”. He also says he will take up the matter with the airport authorities at Lorento.
Harry and Sally accept Mr Stonewall’s offer and subsequently select the most expensive return flight option to a large airport that they can find on Last Resort’s website.
Had this case being pursued by way of court proceedings, Harry and Sally would have had to have paid an initial court fee of X pounds. Additionally, it is likely that because of internal court delays, they would have had to wait several months before the case went to trial. Least one court attendance would have been necessary and that would have entailed additional travel and waiting time. The three-hour online mediation was arranged very quickly which meant no travelling for Sally and was convened at a time that was convenient for all parties. Harry and Sally’s share of the mediation fee was £175.00 plus VAT but this is more than offset by the terms of the mutually agreed settlement.
It would be wrong to suggest that Mr Stonewall was “happy” with the outcome but he takes the opportunity presented to carry out an investigation and ensure that his company’s processes and procedures are improved, something that may well help to forestall further claims and conceivably, adverse publicity.
FACILITATED MEETING CASE STUDIES
A scenario involving a publicly funded community project where poor management and communication results in non-payment of invoices and bad feelings are generated.
Harriet, a young entrepreneur, was invited to join a committee chaired by David to deliver a young person’s talent competition, an event that had been awarded quite generous lottery funding. Harriet put forward a number of constructive proposals and in return for being paid a modest hourly rate of £10 she was asked to commission a number of services. These included the provision of PA equipment, venue hire, stage and lighting fitting, media and marketing. Time was of the essence and Harriet used her contacts to obtain services at a discounted rate in order to support this good cause.
The week before the event, Harriet asked David about the process of submitting invoices. No response was given. The competition ran smoothly and when it was over Harriet emailed David about submitting an invoice which totalled £6000 and explained that some of that money was owed to 3rd parties. David failed to respond and over the following week ignored three or four more of Harriet’s emails and she was not advised of any follow-up meetings.
A fortnight or so after the event Harriet was greeted by two of her fellow committee members at an unrelated event and was rather surprised when they asked why she had not attended a presentation where all those who had helped organise the competition had been given a “thank you payment” of £250.
Given that Harriet had repeatedly emailed David and considered that she was being ignored she contacted an ASM PLUS facilitator. After an initial discussion with her, the facilitator contacted David to invite him to attend a three-hour facilitated discussion, as a way of reaching some agreement. David responded positively and the arrangements were made with each party contributing half of the specified cost of £350 plus VAT.
In the course of the meeting Harriet took the opportunity to explain her concerns about the previous lack of response to her enquiries about invoicing and emphasised that she was owed a lot of money. She also made it clear that although she would rather not do so she was fully prepared to issue proceedings in the Small Claims Court. David explained that there was never any intention on his part to mistreat Harriet and having emphasised what had happened was consequent on a combination of lack of time and resources he apologised and offered to pay the outstanding invoices within 14 days and to give Harriet her £250 award.
Although she was not reimbursed in respect of her half of the meeting fee, Harriet was nonetheless pleased because having taken advice from a consumer rights organisation she was aware that even when only quite modest amounts of money are being claimed court proceedings can drag on. She appreciates that David’s committee’s funding arrangements may not have been that sound and is concerned that further delay might result in her recovering nothing. David is relieved as he understands that court proceedings can be very time consuming. Also, he wants to move on to another project and because the discussions are confidential, his good name is preserved.
Additionally, because they are reconciled, Harriet, whose association with the venture has enhanced her professional reputation and David agreed that in principle, provided things are put on a proper footing they could work together in the future. David also makes a mental note to himself to check through the committee accounts to ensure no one else is awaiting payment.
A scenario involving a a poorly managed gym where a facilitated meeting resolves a number issues very promptly and saves a great deal of time and money.
Cummings is the customer relations director of Gymfit, a well-established chain of fitness centres with a number of elite gyms located in the wealthy districts of a number of UK cities. He notes that of late his staff have received a number of complaints about one particular gym based in Highgate, North London whose annual membership is £800 per person plus VAT. Some of the showers in the mens’ changing rooms do not work properly, a number of lockers are broken, well-worn safety treads on two sets of stairs have not been replaced in three years and around 5% of the machines and devices in what is a very well used facility are permanently out of action.
Over the past few weeks there has been a steady stream of complaints including a number which emanate from a large insurance company that on behalf of some of its employees pays 25 annual gym memberships. A member of the company’s legal department has written to Cummings firstly highlighting a proposal to place an embargo on any membership renewals and new memberships and secondly to review current memberships. Additionally, the letter states that if the current issues are not addressed within a very short period of time the company will unilaterally terminate any current membership arrangements and sue for damages. This is attributed to what are termed fundamental breaches of contract on the part of Gymfit. To date the rather bullish Cummins has largely ignored the complaints and resorted to sending a number of rather inaccurate, sometimes offensive emails to the branch manager, Miss Jones, blaming her.
The rather distressed Miss Jones takes legal advice. She is advised by her solicitors that if she were to resign, because Cummings has made her position untenable, she has a good case for claiming that she has been constructively dismissed and for seeking compensation in the Employment Tribunal.
Gymfit’s head of HR, Mr Wright, becomes involved and realises that for no good reason his company is in danger of being drawn into two sets of costly, protracted litigation and that any attendant adverse publicity could damage its reputation. Equally, he appreciates that in both the short and long term the loss of the considerable amounts of money that the insurance company might otherwise pay will be very significant and is concerned that the Highgate gym might have to close. Taking up a suggestion from the insurance company’s legal department Mr Wright agrees to an ASM PLUS convened online facilitated meeting involving himself, Cummings, Miss Jones and a member of the insurance company’s finance department. Tacitly supported by Mr Wright the facilitator ensures that all parties have their say and in the course of a three-hour roundtable confidential discussion, Cummins apologises to both Miss Jones and the insurance company. Under the auspices of Mr Wright, a remedial plan of action is devised and Gymfit resolves to overhaul its complaints procedures so as to avoid a repetition of what has transpired.
Because the facilitator had short telephone discussions with all parties beforehand and they understand how the facilitated meeting process works, it proved to be a very constructive process and agreement was reached inside the allotted three-hour period. Prior to the facilitated meeting, many hours of Gymfit and insurance company time had been wasted with a lot of bad feeling generated. The ASM PLUS facilitator’s fee was £350.00 plus VAT and because as a result, a plan of action was devised, the Highgate members are appeased, the threat of costly litigation is averted and a very important revenue stream is preserved. Not least because both his and Cummings’ notional hourly rate is £150.00, Mr Wright is mindful that if matters had not been resolved the two of them would have had to spend many more hours embroiled in litigation that can now be put to much better use. Accordingly, he concludes that the facilitated meeting process was excellent value for money.
Expert practical advice from an approachable team of professionals with experience of responding to dispute resolution and managing mediation. I can recommend with confidence.
The mediators without any doubt added very significant value and helped us avoid what would have been potentially very significant legal costs. Without their help I doubt we could have got a sensible conversation between us and the defendant.
Excellent Service from a dedicated and well-informed group of individuals! Certainly, recommend their services!
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Roy Van den Brink-Budgen
Policies and Agreements
ASM Plus Fees and Conditions for Small Claims Mediation and Facilitated Meetings
ASM Plus offers a cost-effective online mediation and facilitated meeting service using specialist technology to host a virtual mediation with an Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) mediator. Online mediation is available on all platforms from desktop PC/MAC to mobile telephone. The only requirements are a reliable internet connection, an ability to operate the quite straightforward software, the facility for forwarding documents online and for the parties to have quiet, confidential places in which they can mediate.
Our Small Claims Mediation scheme is for claims with a maximum value of £20,000. The UK County Court Small claims limit is £10,000.00
|Claim value of less than £20,000.00||Up to 3-hour online mediation or facilitated meeting||£175.00 plus VAT per party. (In some instances, there may bean additional charge)|
Terms and Conditions for the ASM Plus Small Value Disputes Resolution Service
- All monies due must be received by ASM Plus from both parties at least five clear working days prior to the date agreed for the mediation. The fee is not refundable if the mediation or facilitation does not proceed.
- If, for whatever reason a case is rescheduled after a date for mediation or a facilitated meeting has been agreed, ASM Plus reserves the right to make an additional charge of £35 plus VAT per party.
- In signing an agreement to mediate or agreeing to a facilitated meeting the parties warrant that they are able to operate the relevant hardware and online software, that they are able to transmit documentation to all other parties online and that they will participate in the mediation from a quiet, confidential location.
- The three-hour time limit will be strictly adhered to by the appointed ASM Plus mediator or facilitator. This will include allowing the time necessary for drawing up any agreement. ASM Plus does not warrant that if a time limited option is used that the matters in dispute or being discussed will be resolved within a three-hour timeframe. Any additional time expended will be charged at the rate of £50.00 per hour or part thereof VAT. At the discretion of the individual mediator or facilitator in the event that additional time is expended, any agreement reached will not be given to the parties until these additional monies have been paid.
- In so far as there are existing court proceedings it will be for the parties themselves without any additional input from ASM Plus to lodge any agreement reached and pursue such means of enforcement as may be deemed necessary.
- Small claims mediation and related facilitated meetings are not suitable for the following: Inheritance claims, disputes between cohabitees, where there is a law of trusts issue, neighbour disputes, family disputes involving children or finance, and cases that have particularly complicated factual or legal scenarios.
- The fees charged include pre-reading of no more than five, 11 size font A4 documents which must be sent to the other party and to the ASM Plus mediator/facilitator at least five working days prior to the date fixed for the mediation. If any additional documentation is provided, an additional fee of £10.00 plus VAT per A4 page (or the equivalent) will be charged to the party tendering that document. The mediation will not proceed until any additional sums due have been paid.
- Any incidental costs such as the cost of taking incidental professional advice or acquiring the requisite online software must be borne by the respective parties.
- ASM Plus team members are neutral and in the course of providing their professional services will not offer any advice or guidance. They will be advised beforehand that they should take appropriate legal or other professional advice before any process starts.