Your BBB is a nonprofit organization supported by local businesses. It is dedicated to promoting and fostering the highest ethical relationship between businesses and the public through consumer and business education and voluntary self-regulation.
Your BBB assists in the resolution of disputes between a business and its customers. 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.
Arbitration is one dispute resolution (DR) option: The BBB provides a professionally-trained arbitrator who will listen to both sides, weigh the evidence and make a decision about the dispute.
What is arbitration?
Arbitration is an informal process in which two parties present their views of a dispute to a neutral third party, an arbitrator, who will decide how the dispute will be resolved according to arbitration rules.
The issues and the types of awards that the arbitrator may consider in your case will be outlined in a document called the Agreement to Arbitrate. The BBB will work with you to write the Agreement to Arbitrate so it is based on the facts of your case. The arbitrator will be asked to make a decision that he or she believes is fair based on the facts of your case.
Who is the arbitrator?
The arbitrators are volunteers from your community who have been certified as arbitrators by the CBBB. They are not paid for their services.
In some cases, disputes may be referred to Inland Valley Arbitration Mediation Services, Inc. (IVAMS). IVAMS arbitrators have expertise in the transportation and logistics industries and charge a fee that is paid by the parties (subject to allocation in the arbitrator's award).
The arbitration hearing
The BBB will consult with the parties and the arbitrator in scheduling an in-person or telephone arbitration hearing. While most cases require only a single hearing, additional hearings may be scheduled if the arbitrator deems it necessary.
How to prepare for an in-person or telephone arbitration
Before your arbitration hearing, you should prepare an outline of your argument. That way you won’t forget important points in your favor. You may want to use the checklist at the end of this section to assist you in your preparation.
Also before the hearing, you should prepare a list of questions you want to ask the other party. During the hearing, you can add to your list of questions based on the testimony of the other party.
Both parties will have the chance to state their cases fully and without interruption. The arbitrator may also ask questions to clear up uncertain areas and to gain a fuller understanding of the dispute.
Each party will also have the opportunity to ask questions of the other party. After each side has presented its case and the questioning is completed, you should be prepared to give a summary of your position, deal with any questions that have not been answered, and tell the arbitrator exactly what you think the decision should be and why.
Remember, the sole purpose of the hearing is to allow the arbitrator to gather and sort the facts in order to make a fair decision. You should be prepared to convince the arbitrator your position is right.
Use common sense and professional courtesy as you proceed. You are there because a disagreement exists, but keep that disagreement factual and within the bounds of normal courtesy and conventional language. Arbitrators may not have technical expertise, so your presentation may be more productive if you can use lay person’s terms to describe what happened.
An arbitration checklist
This checklist will help you prepare for your arbitration hearing. Use whichever items are appropriate to your case; some may not apply.
- Organize your materials in the order you wish to present them. This will help you present your case clearly and logically.
- Clearly state what the problem is and why you think the other party is responsible.
- List in chronological order the actions you took to resolve the dispute, including:
- individuals with whom you spoke;
- when you spoke with them;
- what they told you and/or what actions they took;
- other business/service persons involved:
- Who were they?
- When did they get involved?
- How did they become involved?
- What did they tell you, and/or what actions did they take? Written statements or the presence of witnesses can help substantiate the facts of your case.
- Collect all available written information relating to your dispute. Bring copies of those documents to an in-person hearing, or send copies to the BBB in advance of a telephone or written hearing. Please include copies for the arbitrator and the other party.
- Documents that might be useful include:
- Moving agreement and/or bill of lading.
- Moving inventory.
- Any damage estimates.
- Any repair records and proof of payment for these services.
- Any original receipts for damaged goods.
- Correspondence between you and the other party.
- Other documents which may support your case, e.g., photographs, mail order-house catalogs and technical information.
- List any witnesses who may have information about your complaint, such as the names of those who moved your belongings. Try to contact them and ask them to testify in person or to submit written statements. You are responsible for your witnesses’ submission of information. If you want them to testify in person, keep them informed about the time and place of the hearing.
The arbitrator will accept all relevant evidence presented at the hearing. The arbitrator will decide the importance of each piece of evidence after the hearing is closed. It is better to be over prepared than under prepared.
Evidence will not be accepted after the hearing if it was possible to present that evidence at the hearing, or if the arbitrator has already rendered a decision.
- Streamline, organize and back up your position with evidence.
- A clear, concise and well-organized presentation supported by relevant facts and good documentation will help the arbitrator fulfill his or her responsibility.
The BBB makes every effort to assist persons with disabilities. If you require special assistance, please let us know.
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