What is conciliation?
Every opportunity to assist the parties to reach an agreed settlement is explored at the BBRS. To facilitate this the BBRS offers both Mediation and Conciliation processes.
For more information on Mediation see the Mediation guidance here.
Conciliation is an informal process, where the opportunity for a negotiated agreement is facilitated by a BBRS customer champion, who is trained in facilitated settlement and dispute resolution. This is offered to the parties when the customer champion considers that the parties may be open to settling the matter and is not reflective of any assessment on the merits of cases.
The principal features of conciliation are that it:
- involves an experienced facilitator of negotiations assisting the parties to reach an agreement
- is confidential and without prejudice – whatever happens during the conciliation will not have any impact on a case assessment, if the conciliation is not successful
- involves the customer and a representative of the bank, both with sufficient authority to settle the dispute
- is flexible and straight forward, with no set procedure, enabling the process to be designed and managed by the Conciliator to suit the parties, in consultation with them
- enables the parties to devise solutions which are not possible in a case assessment process, and which may benefit all the parties
What are the benefits of conciliation?
The conciliation process offers a number of possible benefits to the parties, in comparison to adjudication:
- Early Resolution – Conciliation, while possible throughout the BBRS process, is most likely to be used very early on after a complaint has been referred to the BBRS, where it appears both parties might be open to making offers to settle
- Speed – The conciliation process can happen quickly and takes place over a short time period – normally about four weeks. The opportunity to have the dispute resolved in a shorter timeframe can benefit both parties
- Parties control the outcome
- Working with the Conciliator, the parties can develop a settlement that meets their needs
- Each side must agree whether they want to settle and what the terms of that settlement may be
- This means an agreement can cover things that could not be ordered in a case decision
Is there a cost for the conciliation?
This is part of the BBRS approach to resolving these matters and there is no cost to the customer in agreeing to conciliation.
Who is the Conciliator?
The BBRS customer champion assigned to the case is the Conciliator. All Conciliators are trained in settlement facilitation and dispute resolution. If following early discussion with both parties they feel there might be a willingness to engage in settlement discussions, they will raise conciliation with the parties. If agreed by both, the customer champion will begin the conciliation process.
What do I need to do to prepare for conciliation?
Once conciliation is agreed, the process will be undertaken through conversations between the Conciliator and the parties separately. There is no specific documentation that is required. The Conciliator does have access to the documents and claim information supplied as part of the application process.
How does the process actually work?
The process will be conducted completely over the telephone or via videoconference call.
Once parties have agreed to conciliation, the customer champion acting as Conciliator, will have an initial conversation with the parties. The purpose of these calls is for the Conciliator to fully understand what the issues are relevant to settlement, and how each party views the possibilities of settlement.
These calls are also a good opportunity for the parties to ask the Conciliator any further questions they may have about the process. This may include a discussion about how the process is going to work, next steps and timelines.
Following the initial contact, it is very likely that there will be a number of subsequent conciliation calls with the parties, as the process of facilitated settlement negotiation begins.
These calls may cover:
- Discussion on the issues and needs of the parties
- Possible settlement terms necessary for agreement to be reached
- Detailed offers and counteroffers
As a result of this process, a party may wish to make a written offer to the other party, which the Conciliator will facilitate as well as any response to that offer.
Once an agreement has been agreed in principle, whether verbally or via written offers, the bank will draft a more detailed settlement. The Conciliator will contact the customer and ensure that they have read and fully understand the settlement terms and agreement.
If the customer accepts the settlement agreement, then this will be signed by both parties, and at this point becomes binding on both of them.
How long does conciliation take?
One of the advantages of conciliation is that the parties have an opportunity to agree an outcome more quickly than a decision would be given through the case assessment process. The exact timeframes will differ from case to case, but in general:
- When conciliation has been suggested by either party or the BBRS, there will be a period of around one week for the parties to decide whether they wish to proceed with conciliation. This period can be extended at the customer champion’s discretion
- Once conciliation has been agreed, the Conciliator will work with the parties to agree a negotiated settlement within a period of four weeks
- If settlement has not been agreed within this time, the case assessment process will be resumed unless both parties agree to extend the conciliation process for another four weeks
- Conciliation is flexible, and these timeframes depend on the availability of and timely responses from the parties. Whatever the timeframe, the BBRS will keep both parties up to date on what to expect and what is happening next
Is it confidential?
The process is confidential and is a side-step from the case assessment process to allow the parties to attempt to agree a settlement. For this reason, nothing said or disclosed during the conciliation will be disclosed to a Case Assessor, should the conciliation not be successful.
How does a conciliation conclude?
The conciliation may end in a number of ways:
- by settlement of the dispute in whole or part, when all agreed matters must be written down and signed by the parties to be binding
- by one or more parties indicating they no longer wish to continue conciliating, before settlement is achieved
- agreement not having been reached within 6 weeks, and where in the Conciliator’s opinion, settlement is unlikely
Once an agreement has been agreed in principle, whether verbally or via written offers, the bank will draft a more detailed settlement agreement which will be sent to the customer. The Conciliator will contact the customer and ensure that they have read and fully understand the settlement terms and agreement.
If the customer accepts the settlement agreement, then this will be signed by both parties, and at this point both parties are bound by the contract. Either party can take legal action against the other if that party fails to honour their obligations detailed in the agreement.
If settlement is not ultimately reached, then the case assessment process will be restarted at the point it was paused for conciliation.