Keisha Williams the head of Dispute Appointment Services (DAS) at the CIArb speaks to Talk Business about the Business Arbitration Scheme and how it is best used in settling monetary disputes.
Can you explain what your business does and what your role entails?
The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) is a leading professional membership organisation representing the interests of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practitioners worldwide. With over 14,000 members located in more than 130 countries, CIArb supports the global promotion, facilitation and development of all forms of private dispute resolution. I am head of CIArb’s Dispute Appointment Service, which facilitates ADR by providing quick, confidential and cost effective methods of dispute avoidance and dispute resolution for civil and commercial disputes in diverse areas, involving domestic or international parties. DAS primarily acts as an appointing body, but can also nominate or recommend suitable arbitrators, mediators, adjudicators, or experts. DAS also offers bespoke ADR schemes catered to specialist areas or low value disputes. My role is to manage and develop the various schemes and services we offer, oversee the appointment process, and raise the profile of DAS and ADR in general.
What prompted its development and what does the scheme aim to achieve?
The Business Arbitration Scheme (BAS) was developed by CIArb with small businesses in mind, to provide a simple, quick and cost-effective option of resolving low to medium monetary claims without the need to go to court. Small businesses have voiced concern over the current climate of rising court fees, which for many has had the effect of restricting their access to justice. Businesses are naturally seeking cheaper and quicker alternatives to resolving their disputes, and greater certainty upfront about the costs and time involved; BAS strives to deliver this.
In a nutshell, what are BAS’s key features?
BAS can be used for any type of commercial dispute, where the amount being claimed is between £5,000 and £100,000. The arbitrator, who is to be appointed by the Chairperson of the Applicant’s Local Branch of CIArb, is required under the BAS rules to provide the parties with a final and legally binding decision on the dispute in less than 90 days from their appointment. Another key feature of BAS is that it is a fixed fee scheme. The parties pay £1,250+VAT each on commencement of the arbitration, to cover CIArb’s administrative costs and the arbitrator’s fees, with an increment of £500+VAT per party if a half day hearing or site visit is required. The winning party may recover the fixed fee paid by them, but the amount of legal costs recoverable is limited to £1,000, unless the parties agree otherwise. This is to protect parties against liability for their opponents’ high legal bills. In fact, the scheme is simple enough that parties can represent themselves if they wish.
Why should businesses use BAS?
The main benefits of BAS are its simplicity and the certainty it provides parties in terms of the costs and duration of the arbitration. The length and cost of proceedings are always factors of concern for parties, so knowing this information in advance allows parties to make an informed decision as to whether it is worthwhile to pursue their case. Further costs savings can potentially be made if the parties choose to represent themselves, which BAS facilitates through its simple and user friendly rules. Using arbitration to resolve a dispute offers numerous benefits to parties which court proceedings cannot provide. For example, the process is private and confidential, reducing the reputational risk often associated with litigation, and it offers finality, due to its limited grounds of appeal. The award of the arbitrator also has the same effect as a court judgment.