Initial considerations for designing a dispute resolution scheme

This page sets out what you need to consider when designing a dispute resolution scheme.

Involve users and stakeholders from the start

Consistent with the our best practice principles, the users of dispute resolution services should be at the centre of all aspects of the dispute resolution system, including its design. Other interested stakeholders could also be involved. This user-centred approach will help ensure that services are fit for purpose and achieve user buy-in.

You will need to:

  • identify who the users and stakeholders are eg, the parties, lawyers, dispute resolution practitioners, professional bodies in the sector, responsible government agencies and ministers, and any other relevant stakeholders
  • consider what their interests in the scheme are,and the outcomes they might be seeking
  • account for the differing capabilities and resources of users which will affect their ability to engage.

For example…

For users with learning disabilities or mobility issues, you might need to contact them directly and/or offer to go to them to gather information. For others, such as officials in other agencies, sending them discussion documents and providing an opportunity to comment may be sufficient.

You should:

  • be clear with all users about the type of involvement they will have and the extent to which their input will influence the design of the scheme
  • update all users involved in the development process regularly.

The level of their involvement will vary

The level of involvement in the design will vary between users. It might be appropriate to involve some key users in co-design processes, while others may just need to be consulted at significant points in the development.

The Treasury has provided further guidance on the consultation requirements for policy development. It might be helpful to document your approach in a formal stakeholder engagement plan.

What approaches already exist

It is important to check whether any existing mechanisms could be used to address some, or even all, of the disputes that may arise.

For example...

1. The Civil court system (eg, the District Court) may be appropriate if the disputes are matters requiring a legal determination of rights and volumes are low.

2. The Disputes Tribunal may be appropriate if the disputes fall within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, specialised knowledge is not required and precedent does not need to be established.

3. Are there any other related schemes which could deal with the disputes? This usually involves finding a scheme that deals with similar subject matter eg, the original electricity complaints scheme was later expanded to gas complaints and UFB (Ultra Fast Broadband) access disputes.

Even though using an existing approach may be preferable to developing a new one, there are still likely to be complexities. Expanding the jurisdiction of the current scheme may require amending legislation and increased volumes of disputes can also raise funding issues.

Pilot or trial

The volume and nature of disputes in a new or unknown area of dispute may not always be clear. In these circumstances, some form of forecasting (eg, qualitative research) may be needed.

Additionally, a new scheme may need to be piloted (eg, in one region) or trialed (eg, tested in a temporary state) and volumes assessed before more longstanding arrangements are put in place.