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A new certification system has started in which the justice minister can certify private-sector organizations that help resolve civil disputes outside courts. This system is based on the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) law, which went into effect April 1, 2007, and will help offer the public more judicial options.

ADR procedures are not new. Arbitration by labor-relations commissions, divorce mediation by family courts and the activities conducted by traffic accident dispute-resolution centers are all ADR procedures. People involved in disputes over the lending and borrowing of money, faulty or unsatisfactory products and services or leased-land rights also can use ADR procedures.

Unlike trials, ADR procedures are easy to start, closed to the public and can offer solutions to problems quickly and flexibly. Under the ADR law, if disputing parties involved in a trial agree to use ADR procedures offered by certified organizations, the court can halt the trial until the conclusion of the procedures.

The law does not prohibit uncertified ADR organizations; however, the certification system will increase the trustworthiness of an ADR organization. It will also help deepen the people’s interest in such procedures. ADR organizations will be encouraged to man themselves with competent staffers and the public will therefore be able to receive improved services.

ADR organizations that want to be certified by the justice minister are required to have a team of experts as mediators, for example lawyers, judicial scriveners, licensed tax accountants, and social insurance consultants. They also must have clear measures to protect clients’ confidentiality. Information on certified organizations, including fees and the types of disputes they can handle, will be posted on the justice ministry’s homepage (www.moj.go.jp/). Certified ADR organizations are expected to start their operations in summer.

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