Alternative dispute resolution

Alternative dispute resolution procedures offer a cost-effective and speedy resolution to civil disputes. They involve an independent third party and avoid the need for more formal legal procedures.

CIPFA offers two alternative dispute resolution procedures (operated by the DRS-ClArb, a dispute resolution service associated with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators) for members of the public who have contractual or service-related disputes with CIPFA members. These procedures are available only in respect of CIPFA members providing accountancy services directly to the public and not those who are, for example, employed in the public services.

Contractual and service-related disputes include disputes regarding: the level of fees, failure to respond to correspondence, the provision of incomplete or inaccurate information or failure to carry out instructions.


The conciliation procedure can only be instigated where both parties agree to use the service. The scheme is:

  • an independent scheme designed to minimise costs and to encourage agreement between the parties
  • a private and structured form of negotiation between the parties, who are assisted by a conciliator to reach a voluntary agreement
  • intended to settle disputes within four weeks of receiving an application form signed by both parties

In the absence of agreement, the parties may choose to go to arbitration. To find out more about the conciliation service please read the conciliation Scheme rules (PDF, 92 KB) or download the designated application form (PDF, 126 KB).


In the event that agreement is not reached by conciliation, you may consider using the arbitration procedure. While this is a more formal procedure, it is designed to allow the parties to present their case without the need for legal representation.

Again, both parties must agree to use the procedure. Key features of the arbitration scheme:

  • it is usually operated on a documents-only basis, though provision is made for a hearing where appropriate
  • it does not apply to disputes where one or other party has already initiated legal action, unless that action is suspended or discontinued by agreement or by order of the court
  • a registration fee of £175 plus VAT is payable by each party; further costs of the arbitration will be paid in accordance with the arbitrator's award
  • the arbitrator's decision is legally binding on the parties

Please refer to the arbitration scheme rules (PDF, 137 KB) for further information.

Webchat is available Monday to Friday, 09:00 - 17:00 (excluding UK bank holidays).