|Chief Justice, Marston Gibson??|
In some quarters, the judicial system in Barbados has been described as being slow, unwieldy, and bureaucratic. However, by using Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), there is a real possibility that this will help to solve the backlog of cases coming before the courts.
Speaking recently on the subject of the judiciary and the importance of using ADR, Chief Justice, Marston Gibson, was reported to have said: "I am very conscious of the fact that our courts are in crisis and I am conscious of the fact that we need to do something about it. One of the solutions is ADR."
He continued: "The first step [is to] sensitise the Barbadian community with the idea that if you settle your disputes among yourselves, either with or without the use of a facilitator, you, at least, know what you are getting immediately – you don’t have to wait on a result in the court system".
Similarly, the International Standard ISO 10003, which was recently completed by the Barbados national Standards Institution (BNSI), provides for such situations.
According to the BNSI, the offer of good customer service is ensuring that one gets exactly what is paid for or what one expects – this is the ultimate solution to avoid complaints by consumers. However, where a complaint cannot be addressed by a complaints handling process, ADR has been identified as a solution in lieu of court action.
BNSI is the National Standards Body of Barbados which seeks to provide solutions to national problems and improve the international competitiveness of local goods and services. This is done through the development of standards-based solutions in partnership with stakeholders and international standards development counterparts.
To this end, a BNSI committee entitled, Customer Service and Satisfaction Development has been working on the issues of customer satisfaction as part of its mandate. It is chaired by Kelly St. Hill, a tutor in the General Studies Division at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic.
The committee, which started in April this year, has been very successful in evaluating, recommending, and developing a number of standards to address customer service and satisfaction, including the complaints handling and the dispute resolution processes.
Mrs. St. Hill noted that "consistency and excellence in delivering customer satisfaction are critical to the growth of businesses and to stimulating the Barbados economy. The practical guidelines and suggestions offered by the international standards recommended by the Customer Service and Satisfaction Development Committee members are intended to address this need".
She explained that ISO 10003 Quality management – Customer satisfaction – Guidelines for dispute resolution external to organization, which has been recommended for national adoption, addresses the Alternate Dispute Resolution process and provides key guidance for persons and tribunals involved in such a process.
"It is applicable for use by organisations regardless of type, size and product provided, and deals with guidance on determining when and how organisations could participate in dispute resolution," she noted. And, according to the Chairman, the standard also has guidance on the selection of providers and use of their services; top management involvement in, and commitment to, dispute resolution and deployment of adequate resources within the organisation.
Included in this are the essentials for fair, suitable, transparent and accessible dispute resolution; guidance on management of an organisation’s participation in dispute resolution; monitoring, evaluating and improving the dispute-resolution process.
This standard is applicable to those involved in a dispute resolution including bodies set up to arbitrate such processes. Such persons are: consumers, lawyers, tribunals, businesses, e-commerce based companies, Non Governmental Organisations and Government legal departments.
Chief Technical Officer at the BNSI, Fabian Scott indicated that this standard provides best practices and solutions as called for by the Chief Justice of Barbados. He further noted that the standard targets tribunals such as those operated by the National Insurance Scheme and the Office of Public Counsel, and other stakeholders such as those engaged in commercial operations, the Alternate Dispute Resolution Society and the legal fraternity.
"The guidance in this standard not only outlines the best practice for executing a?? dispute resolution process, it also provides practical information on how to design a dispute resolution process and when to offer dispute resolution to complainants," he noted.
Furthermore, implementation of this standard will lead to: a reduction in the number of legal actions filed in the court system; a reduction in costs to consumers and businesses due to utilisation of the dispute resolution process and a resolution that is faster and easier than the legal process.
In addition, information will be provided for the potential users of the dispute resolution about the conditions of access, costs, and legal consequences; the ability of an organisation to identify and eliminate the cause of disputes; improvement in an organisation’s reputation or avoid damage to it; and the enhancement of domestic and international competitiveness.
This standard should be used in conjunction with the following:
BNS ISO 10001 Quality management – Customer satisfaction – Guidelines for codes of conduct for organisations and ISO 10002 Quality management – Customer satisfaction – Guidelines for complaints handling in organisations.