What is Consumer Arbitration ?
     Consumer arbitration is a simple and economical procedure
whereby a businessman and his customer may submit their dispute to
an impartial third party for resolution.  Arbitration is an
alternative to lengthy, costly court action, but it is available
only when all other means of settling the disagreement, such as
mediation by a Better Business Bureau, have failed.  BBBs will not
arbitrate criminal violations, damages which go beyond the actual
service or product involved, and issues that may not be arbitrated
under the law.

How Does Consumer Arbitration Work ?
     When all informal attempts to resolve a customer's complaint
have been futile, the BBB may suggest arbitration, or one of the
parties may initiate a request for arbitration.  If both the
business and the customer agree, the Bureau will take the
administrative steps necessary for arbitration.

Who Will Actually Perform The Arbitration ?
     The Bureau maintains a pool of volunteer arbitrators chosen
from all segments of the community.  Members of this pool serve as
Arbitrators.  A list of possible Arbitrators, plus biographical
sketches, will be sent to both Parties of the arbitration.  Each
party will cross off names of those considered unacceptable and
assign a priority to those remaining.  The preference of the
Parties will determine who is chosen to arbitrate, and no
Arbitrator will be selected if rejected by either Party.

Would The Customer Or Business Be Better Off Going To Court ?
     In many areas, courts suffer from over-loaded dockets, and
there is delay in resolving any dispute.  Arbitration is a speedy
procedure.  It can be instituted in a short period of time, with
most hearings usually lasting no more than an hour.  Going to
court may require hiring a lawyer, but anyone can represent
himself in arbitration.  One may be represented by a lawyer in an
arbitration proceeding, but the non-legal, informal nature of such
a proceeding usually makes a lawyer unnecessary.  Most important,
an arbitration proceeding gives a better forum than most small
claims courts; it is a private matter with no onlookers (unless
the Parties permit it), a judge chosen by the Parties, and a
flexible process throughout.

Where And When Will The Arbitration Be Held ?
     The arbitration hearing will be held at a time and place
convenient to the Parties and Arbitrator, such as an evening or
weekend.  Often the BBB maintains a room that is appropriate for
conducting arbitration hearings.  Hearings have been conducted at
the site of a home improvement job and in a garage where an auto
repair issue was in dispute.

What Is The Nature Of An Arbitration Hearing ?
     The arbitration hearing is conducted in an informal manner
with each party given full opportunity to present his arguments
and evidence.  All Parties and witnesses are sworn to tell the
truth by the Arbitrator who may, in most provinces, administer
oaths.  The Arbitrator, too, is often sworn in prior to the
hearing.  Parties are encouraged to limit their proofs to reliable
and relevant materials.  Where possible, original copies of
contracts and other documents should be brought along, together
with eye-witnesses, if any.  Cross-examination of witnesses will
be permitted.  Although the atmosphere is informal, decorum and
proper courtesy are required at all times.  The hearings are not
restricted as to time, and the Parties are encouraged to tell
their full story without unnecessary repetition.

What Is An Award ?
     An Award is the decision of the Arbitrator.  Unlike most
small claims court decisions, it is in writing and it disposes of
all issues in a manner to achieve a final wrap-up of the dispute. 
A "split" or "partial award" is one that decides in part for and
against both parties.

How Is An Arbitration Award Enforced ?
     In most provinces an Arbitration Award is enforced by the
court.  This means that a written Award, signed by the Arbitrator,
may be taken to court, filed and enforced as if it were a
judgement or order of the court, all without a rehearing of the

January 1994

Senior Arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau of Vancouver
Island - 
     Jason Austin  B.Com, ACA(NZ), FCIS, C.G.A., C.Arb.

For further information regarding arbitration contact the nearest
Better Business Bureau office.
               Victoria  201 - 1005 Langley Street
                         Victoria BC V8W 1V7
                         Tel: (604) 386-6348
                         Fax: (604) 386-2367

               Nanaimo   108A - 55 Victoria Road
                         Nanaimo BC V9R 5N9
                         Tel: (604) 755-7843
                         Fax: (604) 755-7863