BBB Rules of Mediation for the Direct Marketing Association
The Better Business Bureau® (BBB) is a nonprofit organization supported by local businesses. The BBB promotes trust in the marketplace by fostering ethical business practices.
Your BBB assists in the resolution of marketplace disputes. BBBs have a national reputation for fairness because they remain neutral in a dispute. They do not take sides but work to get the problem settled as quickly as possible.
The BBB has partnered with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to develop a process to resolve marketplace disputes involving DMA members through mediation and/or arbitration, as the parties may choose.
What is mediation?
In mediation, BBB will provide a professionally-trained mediator to confer with the parties and guide them in working out their own mutually-agreeable solutions. To make the process readily accessible, mediation of disputes involving DMA members is conducted by telephone. If the parties reach a mutually acceptable resolution, the mediator or BBB staff will put the agreement into written form and send the agreement to both parties. If the process does not resolve the dispute, or if the parties choose not to participate in mediation, BBB will administer an arbitration hearing in accordance with these Rules.
Advantages of mediation
Mediation is a fast, inexpensive way to resolve a dispute. Mediation offers both the customer and the business:
- A chance to be heard – Mediators are trained to listen and to ask the right questions. In a mediation session, everyone has the opportunity to speak without interruption and to share "their side of the story". In some cases, it is the first time the parties will have the opportunity to sit down and really listen to each other.
- A chance to develop new ways of thinking about a problem – A mediator can:
- break a large problem down into smaller parts that are easier to handle.
- restate the issues so both sides can see them in a new way.
- help each side see the other's point of view.
- assist people in taking a realistic look at their dispute and the kinds of solutions that are possible.
- help people to recognize what is really at issue and not to dig in their heels about a particular position.
- A chance for the parties to develop their own solutions – Participation in mediation is voluntary, and a solution is not imposed on the parties. Mediation is a flexible way of resolving disagreements. One of the greatest benefits of mediation is that the parties work together to discuss their dispute, generate ideas for resolving it, and decide together what the solution will be. By finding their own solution to their dispute, the parties are more likely to follow through on the agreement.
Often, people think of mediation as a time for compromise, or having to give up something they want. This is not necessarily the case. When disputing parties have a chance to hear each other, they often find creative ways to resolve the dispute by collaborating, and not compromising.
The mediator's role
When you enter into mediation, the BBB will select a mediator for your case. All mediators are fair and impartial. A mediator does not have personal or business ties to either party in the dispute that could interfere with the impartial nature of the mediation session.
Mediators help people involved in a dispute talk with each other about the conflict so each party can better understand why the conflict exists. As the facts and circumstances concerning the dispute are brought into the open, the mediator works with the parties to help discover possible ways the conflict can be resolved.
The mediator manages the mediation session but does not decide what should be done to solve the problem. The people involved in the dispute decide for themselves what actions will occur, time frames, and other important details. The agreement is written by the mediator with the help of the parties, and is signed by all parties to the dispute.
The mediation session
The mediation session takes place at a location designated by the BBB. We arrange for a mutually convenient time and place for the first mediation session after consultation with all parties. Confirmation of the appointment is made a week in advance of the first mediation session. All principal parties identified in the complaint must attend the session.
The BBB shall provide you with an Agreement to Mediate. The Agreement to Mediate describes the agreement between the BBB as provider of mediation services and the parties. By signing the Agreement to Mediate, you agree that the Rules of Mediation and the Agreement to Mediate have been explained to you.
You may bring legal counsel to the session; however, parties are expected to speak for themselves. During the mediation session, you may ask for a recess to consult with legal counsel.
You may also elect to bring other people with you to the mediation such as witnesses, experts, or a friend or family member. However, the mediator will decide who may remain in the room during the confidential mediation session.
The mediator conducts the mediation session. The mediator will first speak with you and the other party together. Then the mediator may speak with each of you separately. After this, the mediator will help you discuss your disagreement with the other party and assist you in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of your complaint.
A typical mediation session takes two to three hours, although more time may be necessary. Most customer business mediations involve one session, but additional sessions can be scheduled as needed.
In preparing for your mediation, be sure to bring copies of all relevant papers, photos, samples, exhibits, or anything else that would be helpful for the other party or the mediator to see in order to better understand your side of the dispute. The Rules of Mediation specify that you are making a good faith effort to resolve the dispute and that you are willing to provide all information necessary to help resolve the issues in disagreement.
The mediator is there to help you. Feel free to speak earnestly about your own perspective, but avoid accusing or attacking the other party. This only prolongs the dispute and hinders the chance of reaching a solution. At no time will the mediator try to assign blame or responsibility to one party. As an impartial third party, the mediator will focus the parties on the future rather than dwell on events of the past that led to the dispute.
If you need an interpreter for your mediation session, the BBB will make every effort to locate an appropriate interpreter for you.
The BBB makes every effort to assist persons with disabilities. If you require special assistance, please let us know at the time your mediation is being scheduled.
BBB Rules of Mediation for the Direct Marketing Association
All conversations and materials produced during the mediation sessions are confidential. The parties will not disclose any information about what is happening in mediation without the approval of the mediator and the other party. You also agree not to subpoena the mediator or BBB employees in any subsequent legal proceeding.
BBB may share the results of your individual case with DMA for consideration in its ethics review process. Otherwise, BBB shall not release the results of your individual case to any person or group that is not a party to the arbitration unless all parties agree or unless such release is required by law or pertinent to judicial or governmental administrative proceedings.
- Good faith effort
You agree to make a good faith effort to mediate your disagreement with the other party. In doing so, you agree to work cooperatively with the other party and the mediator by discussing the dispute and by helping to work toward an agreeable resolution.
- Full disclosure
You are expected to provide all information necessary to help resolve your disagreement with the other party. The mediator will determine what information is necessary.
- Common courtesy
All participants will conduct themselves within the bounds of common courtesy. Name calling, foul or abusive language and the like will impede the mediation's success, and may compel the mediator to cancel the mediation session.
- Legal counsel
Mediators may not give legal advice. You may retain legal counsel of your choice. If a legal issue arises, the mediator may ask you to consult with your attorney.
- Expert opinion
It may be necessary to seek expert advice during mediation. The mediator may direct either or both parties to obtain expert advice at any time during the mediation session. Likewise, the mediator may also contact experts directly.
- Voluntary process
Mediation is a voluntary procedure. While the mediator will make every effort to help you reach a resolution to your dispute, you are under no obligation to reach an agreement with the other party. Either party involved in the dispute may decide to have the mediation session ended at any time with proper notice to the BBB.
In submitting to mediation under these Rules, the parties agree that the DMA (including its staff), BBB (including its staff), Council of Better Business Bureaus (including its staff), and/or the mediator shall not be subpoenaed by either party in any subsequent legal proceeding and shall not be liable for any act or omission in connection with your mediation.
© 2008 by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., Arlington, VA