CIArb Features

As SMEs face more lockdown disputes, the CIArb/CEDR Pandemic Disputes Service offers a fast, affordable Solution

14 Oct 2020

Nearly 7 months since the imposition of lockdown measures in the United Kingdom to curb the spread of COVID-19, the toll on individual businesses and on the economy as a whole is becoming clear. As firms try to adapt and survive in an increasingly unpredictable commercial landscape – and as the initial shock of economic lockdown gives way to a more complex multilayered situation – the potential for commercial disputes is rising. For the commercial sustainability of these firms, and in order to reduce pressure on the courts, access to fast, affordable dispute resolution is more important than ever, and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) and the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) Pandemic Business Dispute Resolution Service (PBDRS) offers an ideal solution.

The nature of the disputes faced by businesses vary across sectors, but certain patterns are starting to emerge. Firstly, as might be expected of a lockdown which has disproportionately impacted the service industries, hospitality businesses are experiencing particular challenges. This week, the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA), the British Beer and Pub Association, and several other business organisations are calling for a judicial review of the Government’s lockdown measures as they deal with the implications for their business models. Such conflict could spill over and result in disputes with commercial landlords, suppliers, and other commercial partners.

In these circumstances, businesses need a way to resolve such disputes quickly and affordably. The PBDRS was designed for exactly that purpose. As a collaboration between two of the leading global dispute resolution organisations – CIArb and CEDR – the service offers a low-cost alternative to court. For a fixed fee, parties can utilise a range of dispute mechanisms: structured renegotiation, mediation or fast-track arbitration. In simple terms this means the service is suitable for a range of contractual disputes no matter what stage the dispute is at, and parties can avoid costly and time-consuming court processes. The essence of this scheme is to offer a clear solution for those businesses that cannot afford armies of lawyers, and who need to reach a conclusion quickly. Furthermore, the scheme is designed to be conducted online without the need for a hearing.

For more information about PBDRS, please contact CIArb’s Dispute Appointment Service (

Lewis Johnston ACIArb, Head of Policy and External Affairs, CIArb