Mediation centre to focus on business disputes

2 August 2015
Today Online

Mediation centre to focus on business disputes

SINGAPORE  The Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) will now help resolve business disputes by providing parties with a list of mediators who are experts in particular industry fields, such as top lawyers or medical practitioners, it announced yesterday.

Disputing parties will be able to easily access expert mediators from 10 areas of industry specialisation, including construction, healthcare  two areas that have seen an increase in the number of disputes in recent years  and insurance. Along with small and medium enterprises, these priority segments are now part of the SMC’s focus.

The effort is part of the SMC’s new focus to resolve business disputes, which was announced at its annual appreciation lunch yesterday.

This is in addition to two other mediation services it introduced on April 28  the Pilot Healthcare Scheme, which offers subsidised mediation services for disputes between patients and healthcare institutions, and mediation for disputes arising from the Personal Data Protection Act.

With an increasing number of businesses preferring mediation over lawsuits, the SMC’s mediation caseload has been increasing steadily, growing 38 per cent in 2013 from the previous year.

Commercial mediation cases have also doubled over the past four years, with the SMC facilitating 214 cases last year.

“We realised that not many businesses are aware of mediation. We want to bring the mediation message to businesses; to let them know it is a strategic tool to manage costs. There are multiple benefits of mediation that businesses ought to be made aware of, said SMC executive director Loong Seng Onn.

“If you go through a forum such as litigation or arbitration, there is always a risk that the third party may decide against you, so mediation is a forum where you have control over the outcome, he added.

Two new mediation bodies will also be formed, in addition to the SMC. The first is the Singapore International Mediation Centre, or SIMC, which will increase Singapore’s capability as an international mediation hub. The second, the Singapore International Mediation Institute, or SIMI, will set standards and provide accreditation for mediators.

The SMC is also pushing to make mediation a viable, full-time profession, as mediators currently work on an ad hoc basis. In view of this, it has implemented a fee restructuring that will see mediators get increased professional fees.

“Under our Commercial Mediation Scheme, principal mediators have seen their minimum fees rise by about 50 per cent per day, while associate mediators can now co-mediate higher quantum disputes and earn a daily fee as opposed to the previous honorarium, said SMC chairperson Justice Belinda Ang.

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