As the name indicates, the alternative means of a dispute allows for solving conflicts outside the Judicial Courts in a more expedited, simple and informal way. Therefore, in early May 2023, the Directorate-General for Justice Policy (DGPJ) made available a new platform for citizens to access and manage alternative dispute resolution – ADR means – under the management of the Ministry of Justice, called RAL+. The creation of this Platform essentially aims to make proceedings faster and more accessible and solve disputes outside the judicial courts.
Thus, through this Platform, the citizen can initiate proceedings, obtain information about the ADR means, download and send documents, and receive notifications in the channels chosen by him/her, among other faculties.
To access this Platform, the citizen may authenticate himself in one of two ways: i) through a citizen card reader; or ii) through a mobile digital key.
This Platform integrates the Family and Labour Mediation systems and three Peace Courts (Peace Courts of the West, which integrates 12 municipalities of Vila Nova de Poiares and of Sintra).
The enlargement of RAL+ to the whole network of Peace Courts in the country is foreseen, including the Consumer Conflict Arbitration Centres.
The creation of this Platform has brought advantages not only for citizens but also for lawyers, who can have more effective control of the process through real-time monitoring, ensuring a quick interaction between the parties and the representatives, which increases the celerity in the resolution of conflicts.
The main alternative dispute resolution methods
Among the main alternative means of dispute resolution are Arbitration, Peace Courts and Mediation.
Arbitration is a voluntary alternative dispute resolution mechanism since recourse to this court depends on the will of the parties, provided that by special law, it is not submitted exclusively to the courts or necessary Arbitration.
In voluntary Arbitration, the parties, using an agreement called an “arbitration agreement”, undertake to submit a current or future dispute to the decision of an arbitral tribunal (individual or collective)
Arbitration is a confidential procedure. Accordingly, the parties’ decisions and identity may only be disclosed with the parties’ permission, and the award rendered by the arbitral tribunal can only be appealed to a court of law if the parties have explicitly so provided in the arbitration agreement or a subsequent agreement.
The effectiveness of arbitration results from the fact that the decisions given by the arbitral tribunal have the same binding force as the decisions of the Judicial Courts and can be enforced when not complied with.
Regarding the Peace Courts, it is crucial to highlight that these have competence for declarative actions, except for family conflicts, inheritances and labour issues, whose value does not exceed 15,000.00 (fifteen thousand euros). If the parties so wish, the proceedings may begin with recourse to a mediator, who will guide the people in conflict to reach a solution, although he cannot impose a sentence on them.
If this initial mediation is unsuccessful, the case is handed over to the justice of the peace, who tries, once again, to get the parties to come to an agreement. If not, the case goes to trial. In this last stage, the process is very similar to the litigation before the judicial courts, considering that the parties are heard, and documentary and testimonial evidence is also produced. In the end, a sentence is issued by the justice of the peace, which has the same weight as a sentence by a judicial court. There is the possibility of an appeal against the sentence handed down, provided that the conflict has a value of € 2,500.00 (two thousand and five hundred euros) or more.
Mediation applies to civil and commercial disputes, and there are already Family, Labour and Criminal Mediation Systems. Contrary to what happens in the Peace Courts or Arbitration, the parties in conflict make the decision, which constructs it with the help of the mediator – an impartial and independent third party. This means that the mediator has no power to decide, only to guide the parties in communicating and reaching an agreement that will end the conflict. To guarantee the security of all parties involved, the content of the mediation sessions is confidential and cannot be used as evidence in court. The mediation procedure lasts, on average, three months.
The content of this information does not constitute any specific legal advice; the latter can only be given when faced with a specific case. Please contact us for any further clarification or information deemed necessary in what concerns the application of the law.