Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is the general term applied to means of resolving disputes between consumers and traders without going to court. Two main forms of ADR are mediation (an independent third party helps parties arrive at a mutually agreed outcome) and arbitration (an independent third party makes a decision based on the facts which can be binding on either parties).
Two sets of regulations implement the European Directive on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the UK. You may find them here:
The regulations require businesses that sell to consumers to provide certain information, establish competent authorities to certify ADR schemes and set criteria ADR scheme applicants must meet to gain certification. The regulations do not make it mandatory for traders to belong to an ADR scheme. However, most businesses which sell to consumers must point them to a certified ADR scheme, should a complaint be unresolvable between the trader and consumer.
The regulations also require that ADR providers wishing to gain certification must meet certain standards with regard to independence, impartiality, and quality of expertise.
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team is a competent authority for the purposes of the ADR regulations within the UK. Currently, within the estate agency sector, there are three applicable organisations which are approved as Alternative Dispute Resolution providers. These are also the three residential redress schemes below: