The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has launched a 12 month pilot arbitration scheme. 

It will be run by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) and is intended to provide a quicker and more cost effective alternative to the court process for resolving complaints against the press relating to reputation, privacy, confidentiality, information protection and harassment. 

Over 20 publications have agreed to participate in the pilot, including The TimesThe Daily Telegraph, the Daily MailThe Sun and the Daily Mirror, as well as Condé Nast UK and the Press Association.

The scheme is voluntary (both the claimant organisation or individual and the newspaper must agree to submit the dispute to arbitration), but the final decision is binding.  The tribunal can:

  • award damages (up to £50,000, unless the parties agree otherwise);
  • order that parties pay some of each other's legal costs (including the fees charged by the arbitration service);
  • require the delivery up of offending material;
  • require the respondent to remove the material in question from its website; and/or
  • require the respondent to publish a summary of the decision.

Claims can only be made against participating publications (listed in full here: https://www.ipso.co.uk/arbitration/participating-publications/) and arbitrators cannot grant pre-publication injunctions or consider claims already determined by a court.

Like any arbitration, the proceedings will be confidential, which may well be a relevant consideration for many claimants.  However, the Final Ruling may be published on IPSO's website, unless a party requests confidentiality or anonymity and the arbitrator agrees.

It is likely to be cheaper than going to court and liability for the newspaper's costs if a claimant loses is much more limited than in litigation.  The bulk of the fees charged by the arbitration service will be borne by the newspaper, though the claimant will also have to pay some of these fees (though if the claim succeeds, they are recoverable from the publisher).  In practice, however, those fees are likely to be significantly less than the legal costs incurred by each side.

IPSO intends that most claims will be decided on paper, though there may be an oral hearing "in exceptional circumstances".

More information about the scheme and its rules can be found here: https://www.ipso.co.uk/arbitration/