/ Consumer Rights

Have you used an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme?

Have you used mediation, ombudsmans or other ADR schemes to resolve a complaint? Tell us about your experience.

If you’ve received an online purchase that didn’t meet its description, your builder left you with a botched home improvement project or you’ve suffered a dodgy car repair, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may be able to help you get redress.

ADR schemes exist to help consumers and businesses resolve a dispute without going to court. The service is usually free of charge and the decision should be binding on the company. Ombudsman schemes are a type of ADR that offer a more enhanced service.

Finding an ADR scheme

There are a lot of ADR schemes out there, but companies are only required to use the process in a few regulated sectors – in other sectors it’s voluntary. The number of schemes and voluntary membership can make it difficult for consumers to find the right scheme for their complaint. 

ADR schemes are available to resolve disputes in retail, home improvement, car sales and repairs, water, energy, financial services, rail, air travel and package holidays, to name just a few.

Of course the decision doesn’t always go the consumer’s way, but if you have a genuine complaint ADR should be able to help.

Read our Consumer Rights guidance on ADR schemes

What’s your experience?

We’ve heard from consumers who have had good experiences where the dispute has been settled quickly, as well as some shocking examples involving long delays and companies that didn’t comply with the final decision.

If you’ve used an ADR scheme, we’d like to hear about your experience 

Have you struggled to find an ADR scheme to handle your dispute? Or, has a company refused to use ADR to resolve a dispute?

Have you had a good experience of using ADR? Was the ADR process easy to follow or were you constantly having to chase?

How do you think the process could be improved for others who may have similar issues? 


I used the Financial Ombudsman to resolve a dispute with a life assurance company after my husband died.

The life assurance company refused to honour the whole payment, arguing that they had not been supplied accurate information and the premium we had been charged was too low by, say, 25%. They reduced the payment by the same percentage.

My complaint was quite specific and related to whether or not they’d used the information we’d provided correctly when taking out the policy. They didn’t uphold my complaint so I went to the ombudsman.

They were completely useless. Despite saying they’re impartial I was told that they ‘always assume that a company’s terms and conditions are lawful and reasonable’ and simply adjudicate as to whether a company has acted within their T&Cs. They sided with the life assurance company.

Interestingly some months later the life assurance company contacted me and said that they’d been audited by a third party and one of the claims they’d reviewed was mine. The third party deemed the premium uplift to be far too much and therefore the reduction in payment was similarly too great. I was given many tens of thousands of pounds extra as a result of this.

Kelvin John Evans says:
15 October 2021

I have used the ombudsman service, found them to be far from independent. Complaining about serious errors from Doctors and or hospitals also are met by a very one sided argument from PALS, which appear to be a doctors defence organization! Not fit for purpose.

Not a great experience. No Internet and phone for over 2 months, so complained to the company and the ombudsman after the time limit passed. Ombudsman found in our favour but company complained that it was not part of the automatic compensation scheme. Ombudsman changed decision as they advised that company would not agree to original decision. But decision should be based on fairness. So had to go to court.

Also used Financial Ombudsman but not a good experience either. Barclays advised that mortgage protection was required to take out on a re mortgage. Found many yrs later this should not have been the case. Complained but Barclays said they used a financial advisor in their branches so they take no responsibility. Raised it with the ombudsman, they advised that it should be raised with the company and they provided details. I checked against the FCA register and the company was no longer authorised. I went back to the ombudsman and they advised that the system had not been updated and although this was at a Barclays branch they could not do anything. Surely Barclays have an agreement with the advisor and should bear some responsibility.

EnKay says:
14 October 2021

There was identity fraud undertaken and an account was opened in my name. I was chased by debt recovery agents. I advised them to provide proof in line with FCA consumer credit sourcebook rules 7.5 & 7.14. They were not forthcoming and advised they will close the matter. I asked for the information used that had been used to open the account so I could cancel the items. After several attempts there was no response. I raised it with the FOS, who took 6 months to say that a relationship with the company and myself did not exist so they cannot look into the complaint. I did not agree as my details had been used and this was reviewed by an Ombudsman who rules it is a complaint that the FOS can look at. A further 2 months and I am still awaiting any information/response from the FOS.

I lodged a complaint with the FOS about Aegon, but by the time they responded after 5 months, Aegon had settled my original complaint with them! I don’t know how effective the FOS is, but with that kind of delay, it’s even more frustrating than the original complaint!

I’ve tried contacting the rail ombudsman to complain about the outrageous EXclusion on the new trains only to be told they couldn’t deal with it so they passed my complaint on to transport focus who tried to help but were unable to so it now looks like the only course of action left will be the disability law service as the local mp won’t even answer any of my correspondence no matter how civilised I try to be or whatever the subject, and that’s blatant discrimination too, democracy here in England is supposed to be for all registered electors, not just whoever they prefer, we’re not under roman occupation any more, we don’t have “plebs” any more. And someone has got to deal with this appalling situation and get it out in the open and not let it remain hidden away out of sight and conveniently swept aside under the proverbial carpet, and it’s obvious that if I don’t no-one else will.