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Alternate Dispute Resolution in Banking and Telecom Sectors

Banking and telecom have a very significant impact on and meaning to the daily life and welfare of consumers. The range of these types of services is very broad, and their regulation is also changing both at EU and national (Member State) level. In order to implement the relevant goals, such as high level consumer rights protection, consumer trust in business sector, proper and effective functioning of the internal market it is essential to ensure clear and sufficient legal regulation, establish responsibility of the services providers, consumer rights and duties as well as to promote, seek for the more effective, rapid and cheaper ways of solving consumer and business related disputes.

Alternate Dispute Resolution
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the procedure and methodology for settling and resolving various disputes without litigation, such as arbitration, mediation and negotiation. ADR proceedings are generally less costly and more expeditious. They are mostly being utilized in disputes that would otherwise result in litigation, including high-profile labour disputes, divorce actions, and personal injury claims. One of the many reasons parties may prefer ADR proceedings is that, unlike adversarial litigation, ADR procedures are often collaborative and also allow the parties to understand each other's positions. ADR allows the parties to come up with more creative ways that a court may not be legally allowed to impose.

Alternate Dispute resolution in Banking Sector
Banks and their customers often have disagreements or disputes over certain proceedings, fees or other operations. Until recent times, these types of issues were very difficult to solve because it could take years in the judicial courts. Now, customers and banks can very easily resolve their disputes with the helping hand of the Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution in Banking (CSALB). 
What kinds of disputes can we solve with the help of CSALB?
The Centre for the Alternative Dispute Resolution in Banking aims to settle disputes between banks or non-bank financial institutions and consumers in a cordial, balanced and timely manner. Procedures are of no cost for consumers and are conducted outside the judicial courts. Consumers can turn to CSALB for any kind of problem they have in their relationship with banks or non-bank financial institutions. For instance, in the first trimester of this year, most claims were related to issues relating to the loans and a smaller part of claims were related to some misinterpretations about bank deposits, current accounts, bank transfers or leasing. The most common claims by the consumers are related to the reducing loan balances, the elimination of fees and returning the money paid for such fees throughout the years.

The key feature of all ADR schemes in the field of financial consumer services is that a so called 'neutral' or a 'third party'  helps the consumer and the service provider resolving their dispute by proposing or imposing a solution or by bringing the parties together to convince them to find a solution by common agreement. In the area of financial services, the currently existing ADR schemes in different Member States either cover financial services in particular sectors or cover all financial services sectors or handle consumer complaints in general. Most of the ADR schemes are central but some are regional as well, such as the Lisbon Arbitration Centre for Consumer Conflicts.

The decision can be binding on both the consumer and the financial service provider or binding only on the financial service provider. Other ADR projects only make a recommendation to the parties which the latter are free to follow or not. A number of ADR plans do not formally adopt a position on the possible way to resolve the dispute but rather help the parties to come to an agreement, although sometimes they may propose a solution informally. Some ADR schemes apply a mix of procedures. For example, at the Dutch Financial Services Complaints Institute, a dispute is first handled through a mediation procedure, but if this procedure is not successful in resolving the dispute, an arbitration proceeding may be initiated.

Relevance of ADR in Banking Sector
There are three crore civil cases pending in Civil/usual forums in various courts in the Country. In addition, over five lakh cases, involving criminal and civil laws, were pending in different High Courts for over 10 years in the country. The expenditure on judiciary in terms of GNP is only 0.2% and of this, half of the cases are from the banking and financial sectors where compensation has to be claimed. To curb the burden of cases on the usual courts, ADR is a huge source of resolving disputes outside the court and not burdening the courts on less expense.

Alternate dispute resolution in telecom sectors
The telecommunications sector has witnessed an enormous transformation in its market structure in the past two decades. The traditional confidence in state-owned monopolies has been replaced with the more effective approach of privatizing and liberalizing markets. Commercial disputes are a natural outcome of business game but in the telecommunications context such disputes do become much more nuanced. Telecommunications disputes may not only hold or surround technical matter, additionally they also impinge on matters of public policy like competition law, consumer protection and international commitments of the country in question.

National laws have stipulations providing for mechanisms of resolving telecommunications disputes, with the dispute settlement purview allocated conventionally to the regulator. In addition to the more official forms of dispute resolution, there has been a marked movement towards promoting of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as a more efficient platform for dispute settlement.

The policy changes introduced by the Communications Act, 2003 made considerable modifications to the role of the regulator and industry in resolving disputes. ADR is now encouraged in a wide variety of disputes, which were conventionally in the exclusive jurisdiction of the regulator. In the domestic sphere, inter-operator and consumer disputes are dealt with and on an international level telecommunications related trade disputes are covered. It is established that the use of ADR leads to a more efficient and flexible regulatory environment and also helps preserve business relationships between the different stakeholders.

ADR is becoming increasingly relevant in telecommunications and has reached a high priority on the policy-makers' agenda at every level of regulation as they seek to provide timely, efficient and more cost-effective solutions to disputes. The vast majority of the disputes arise from breaches of legal obligation imposed by the regulator, or an international body, such as the WTO, administering trade liberalization policies.

In India, Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, TDSAT, is fledging institution working in line. The working procedures and approaches of these appellate bodies may have to be made more simple, flexible and not complex and necessarily court-like. Such bodies should also be capable of drawing upon other methods of settling and resolving disputes including the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) before taking up formal processes of adjudication in the court.

An enormous number of cases can be resolved by the method of ADR in the sectors of Banking and Telecom. This article briefly discusses the ADR systems and its development in the fields of Banking and Telecom in India.

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