Disputes Between Businesses and Consumers

If you have a problem with a product you bought, work done on your house or services provided by an accountant or other consultant, mediation resources may be available. Many resources are also available for businesses that have problems with customers or clients.

 MA business disputes

Free or Low Cost Resources

Many times, consumers can resolve disputes directly. A little guidance is sometimes helpful, such as the excellent publications available on the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division website.

Consumers in Massachusetts can also make use of telephonic mediators who work or volunteer for programs run under the auspices of the Attorney General. These services are free of charge.

If things get serious, both consumers and businesses can go to Small Claims Court for matters that meet the size and other criteria. See the District Court website for current guidelines. At most Small Claims sessions, there are mediators who will take the parties off into a conference room at the courthouse on the day of the hearing to help the parties try to settle the case. If there is no settlement, the hearing takes place that day. These mediation services are also free of charge.

There are also community programs offering free or reduced cost face to face mediation services for consumers that meet certain income guidelines.

Consumers may be able to take advantage of business-specific arbitration panels, like the Home Improvement Contractor Arbitration Board or the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Attorney Fee Dispute Arbitration Board. However, these involve arbitration, not mediation. Consumers have to wait for a hearing date, then make a presentation, and then, most of the time, accept the arbitrators’ decision. A major difference is that in mediation, both parties have a say in how a settlement is structured.

For Larger or More Complicated Cases, You May Need a Professional Mediator

If you have a larger or more complicated matter and you are thinking about litigation, both businesses and consumers might consider using a professional mediator outside the court system. Mediation can be very effective at resolving certain types of consumer disputes without the cost, hassle and delay of going through the court system, particularly:

  • Home improvement contractor disputes
  • Professional service fee disputes
  • Issues with nursing homes and other care facilities

You might also think about the timing of mediation. Many cases settle during the window of time before a complaint. However, discussions often slow after filing as your lawyer builds his case and your costs build up. If you have counsel, you should speak with him or her about the right time for mediation.