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IPSO Arbitration Procedure - an alternative to suing the press

If you have been defamed in the press, had your privacy breached, or if you have been harassed by a journalist or photographer then we may be able to assist you in using arbitration as an alternative to conventional legal action.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) Arbitration procedure is a new alternative dispute resolution system which was introduced in July 2016.  The scheme is presently operating on a trial basis.

How the IPSO Arbitration Procedure works

In an arbitration an independent third party (in this case a specialist IPSO-approved barrister) is appointed to adjudicate on a dispute between two parties.

The scheme can only be used in relation to complaints against participating publications.  A full list can be found here.  The list includes The Daily Mirror, the Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Sun and the Press Association.  The list does not include The Guardian or The Independent.

Publications are under no obligation to arbitrate – both parties must agree to formally start the process.  If agreement is reached the case is transferred by IPSO to the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR).

The parties are required to lodge written submissions setting out their positions.

The case will then be allocated an arbitrator, who may require further evidence to be submitted or documents to be disclosed.

The arbitrator will make an early determination on the core issues.  This is called a ‘Preliminary Ruling’.  IPSO aim for this to be done within 30 days of the arbitrator being appointed.  The matter will then be put on hold for 21 days to give the parties an opportunity to try and reach a settlement (taking into account the Preliminary Ruling).  Where this is not possible, a party can ask that the matter proceed to a Final Ruling.  The Final Ruling is binding on the parties.

There will not normally be an oral hearing (and will never be one unless both parties agree).  The arbitrator’s decision will usually be based solely on written documents.

Complaints must normally be brought within one year of the alleged wrongdoing.

What are the possible IPSO outcomes?

The arbitrator may:

  • Award compensation up to a maximum of £50,000;
  • Require the publisher not to re-publish the offending content;
  • Require the publisher to remove the offending content from its website (and/or use all reasonable endeavours to seek the removal of the information from third party websites);
  • Require the publisher to destroy the relevant material;
  • Require the publisher to desist from the conduct complained of; and/or
  • Require the publisher to publish a summary of his/her ruling; or
  • Dismiss the complaint.

When parties agree to arbitrate they agree that any decision of the arbitrator will be binding.  This means that it will not normally be possible for either party to disregard the decision, reargue the matter in court or bring a claim based on the same facts.

Arbitration costs

If the dispute is resolved following a Preliminary Ruling, the complainant only incurs an arbitration fee of £300 plus vat.  If the matter goes to a final ruling an additional arbitration fee of £2,500 plus vat applies.  In rare instances where an oral hearing is required there may be a further arbitration fee.  Publishers are also required to pay (much larger) fees.

These fees, together with some or all of any legal costs incurred, may be recovered from the publisher in the event of the complaint being upheld or a settlement being reached.

A publisher will not normally be able to recover any of their costs from unsuccessful complainants, unless a claim has been deemed to be wholly without merit, trivial, frivolous or vexatious.  A complainant may also be required to pay some of the publisher’s costs if he/she withdraws from an arbitration.

How we can help

If you decide to seek an arbitration we will advise you and guide you through the process.  We can draft the relevant written submissions and liaise with IPSO and the publisher on your behalf.  Whilst there is no requirement to use solicitors, we can help ensure that your case is focused on the relevant factual and legal issues and that it is presented in a manner that does it justice, giving it the best chance of succeeding.  This is particularly important where there is no oral hearing and rulings are based entirely on written submissions.

The scheme is designed to be a quicker and generally more cost-effective alternative to formal legal proceedings.  However, it will not always be the most appropriate route.  In some instances, it may make more sense to make a conventional complaint to IPSO or pursue a traditional claim for defamation, privacy or harassment.  We offer fixed-fee preliminary consultations in order to assist you in deciding how best to proceed with your complaint/claim.

Contact us

To arrange a consultation with one of our specialist solicitors, or for more information on how we can support you, please send us an emailcomplete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 7183 8950.