Other alternatives to court

There are other ways to resolve payment problems, but they work best when you’re owed a large amount and a dispute is stopping you from getting paid.

All these options involve getting a decision or opinion from an independent third party without going to court.

They’re usually quicker than going to court. They’re not typically cheap, but court can cost even more if your case is complicated and you need legal help.

Hourly rates vary between about £150 and £800, plus administration fees. You can limit the costs by using a provider that charges a one-off fixed fee.

You need to get your customer to agree to be involved, and to share the costs in most cases.

You and your customer also need to agree on the independent third party you use. You can look for a law firm that offers dispute resolution services, or search for providers of the option you’re interested in. Some providers are listed in this EU directory for consumer disputes – check their websites to see if they also help with business disputes.

Get an unbiased opinion on your case

Early neutral evaluation gives you and your customer a realistic, independent assessment of what would happen if you took your issue to court. It can focus on a detail of your case, or it can look at the likely overall outcome.

Both sides get the same opinion, usually from a legal expert (for example, a judge or barrister).

The opinion is not legally binding – you choose how to respond. It could make it easier for you and your customer to negotiate an agreement, or it could help you decide whether it’s worth going to court.

Get a binding decision outside court

Arbitration decisions are usually based on documents provided by you and your client. If there is a face-to-face hearing, it’s private and less formal than court.

The decision is legally binding, and you can’t usually take it further. Courts won’t hear a case that’s been through arbitration, except in a few situations (the process was unfair, for example).

The courts can enforce an arbitration decision, though, including decisions from international arbitration.

Arbitration can sometimes be slow, but it can still be faster than court. Look for providers that work to time limits.

Everything is kept confidential, unless the decision has to be enforced in court later.

If your contract has an arbitration clause, you’ll have to use this option.

Get an expert decision

Expert determination is used for complicated, technical issues. It involves you and your client agreeing on an expert who understands the technical details of your dispute.

At the start, you both agree to be bound by the expert’s decision.

The decision isn’t enforceable by a court in the same way as arbitration or adjudication. But because it forms a contract between you and your customer, you can sue them for breach of contract if they don’t honour it.


Get a decision in a construction dispute

Adjudication is mostly used in construction in the UK. In the construction industry, you often have the statutory right to use adjudication even if it’s not in your contract.

There’s no face-to-face hearing. Instead, an industry expert, judge or official makes a decision based on evidence from you and your client, as well as their own knowledge and investigations.

You usually get a decision within 28 days. It’s legally binding unless you or your customer decide to take the issue further, in arbitration or court.

If the decision involves a financial settlement, it won’t include costs. So you won’t get any legal fees back if you win.

Adjudication decisions can be enforced by the Technology and Construction Court.