What is Mediation 

Being ripped off can feel like breaking up with someone – painful, confusing and hard to get over. Companies you've previously had confidence in can break your trust just as a  loved one can break your heart. So, how can you move on?

 'Relationship counselling' for the consumer

 You could just keep complaining directly to the company in question, much as you would continue 'communicating' with a loved one. Alas, if you've reached deadlock and there's a serious breakdown in the relationship your only other option might be to take it to the courts.

 But you might not have realised that there is another, more amicable option.

When all's not well in love you go to relationship counselling. In the consumer world, you go to an 'arbitration tribunal' for mediation - it's a way of resolving disputes without having to go to court. It's conducted by an independent third party - a mediator - who helps both sides to come to a compromise.It can often be a simpler, and less costly way to solve your problems. It is run through the local county courts, is available to everyone and usually involves a small fee. If you do decide to undertake legal action against a company, you will be offered it as an alternative before you proceed. It's available not just for consumer cases, but also for contract, housing, and neighbourhood disputes.

 But is it a worthwhile option?

 "Most parties to mediation tend to be much more satisfied with the results than with the decision in court, which is imposed on them by the judge. In a mediation, the result is arrived at by a combination of the two parties and the mediator. Mediation is much cheaper than going to court, but it can cost a lot.

Mediation is not the way to go if you don't want to negotiate. Neither is a full mediation necessary if you simply want to complain. But if you've got a patient ear and are prepared to compromise, it could just be the heart-to-heart that brings harmony back to your relationship.