May 26th 2022

What is Mediation and What Isn’t Mediation?

Part of the objectives of the OCCS and our service it to educate both the members of the public and the optical professional as to the possibilities of mediation and what mediation is. One of the biggest challenges that we face is awareness of our service and what mediation can do for those involved with a complaint. In today’s article, we examine what mediation is and isn’t.

Mediation is non-binding

Mediation is first and foremost a non-binding procedure. This means that, even though parties have agreed to submit a dispute to mediation, they are not obliged to continue with the mediation process after the first meeting. In this sense, the parties remain always in control of a mediation. The continuation of the process depends on their continuing acceptance of it.

The non-binding nature of mediation means also that a decision cannot be imposed on the parties. In order for any settlement to be concluded, the parties must voluntarily agree to accept it.

Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, therefore, the mediator is not a decision-maker. The role of the mediator is rather to assist the parties in reaching their own decision on a settlement of the dispute.

How is mediation different from litigation?

In an arbitration, the outcome is determined in accordance with an objective standard, the applicable law. In a mediation, any outcome is determined by the will of the parties. Thus, in deciding upon an outcome, the parties can take into account a broader range of standards, most notably their respective interests. Thus, it is often said that mediation is an interest-based procedure, whereas arbitration is a rights-based procedure. Taking into account business interests also means that the parties can decide the outcome by reference to their future relationship, rather than the result being determined only by reference to their past conduct.

In an arbitration, a party’s task is to convince the arbitral tribunal of its case. It addresses its arguments to the tribunal and not to the other side. In a mediation, since the outcome must be accepted by both parties and is not decided by the mediator, a party’s task is to convince, or to negotiate with, the other side. It addresses the other side and not the mediator, even though the mediator may be the conduit for communications from one side to the other.

We will listen to the complaint and then gather information to understand what has happened. We will then work with both consumer and practitioner to reach a fair resolution. The service does not have any formal powers to force a settlement but by exploring why a consumer feels dissatisfied, and listening to both sides, we will support everyone involved to work towards a solution.

How does our mediation process work?

When you engage with the OCCS, our teams follow the outline below. We:

  • Give guidance to optical professionals on how to respond to a complaint
  • Talk through a professional’s concern about a particular issue and help them to manage this successfully to avoid a complaint
  • Provide initial assistance to consumers who may not be confident or able to raise a complaint alone

What is outside of the OCCS’ remit?

The OCCS cannot assist with claims involving allegations of negligence or where there are concerns about the practitioner’s fitness to practise. If there are concerns that an optician or optometrist is not fit to practice, then the General Optical Council will investigate those concerns. The General Optical Council regulates all optical professionals in the UK and authorises them to practice.

Likewise, as a mediation service we do not seek financial compensation or litigation against a practice or individual. As a provider of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services we employ various methods of resolving disputes without the use of litigation.

For more information on any of our services and how we may be of assistance, contact our friendly team via 0344 800 5071 or email enquiries@opticalcomplaints.co.uk.

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