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Face-to-face Mediation Program: A Massachusetts Success Story

NCJ Number
Negotiation Journal Volume: 5 Issue: 2 Dated: (April 1989) Pages: 175-178
S G Orenstein; K Grant
Date Published
4 pages
An effort that began as an experimental alternative to small claims court for consumer cases has fostered the application of alternative dispute resolution to many other conflicts in Massachusetts.
The attorney general's 'Face-To-Face Mediation' program was first proposed in 1984. National consumer agencies questioned the program, believing that the dollar amounts were too small to justify the time required of consumers and businesses and doubting that businesses would be willing to take part in such a voluntary process. However, a study of the program's first two years disproves these reservations. The eight programs examined were all created as adjuncts to existing consumer advocacy programs, which were to be the sources of cases and of information on consumer rights. Each program had a full-time director and a group of volunteer mediators. The program's main problem was obtaining referrals. However, soliciting cases from small claims courts helped build caseloads, and word of mouth helped generate further awareness of the program. The program has proven to be an effective local resource for resolving consumer disputes. In 1988, 84 percent of the approximately 700 cases that were mediated reached agreement, and 96 percent of those agreements were upheld.