Saudi Arabia recently introduced a draft law introducing mediation as an alternative way to resolve disputes. This law is currently in the 30-day public consultation phase, and once implemented, it will apply to all legal entities registered with the Ministry of Commerce who are engaged in commercial disputes.
The law defines mediation as a process in which two or more parties come together to resolve their disputes with the assistance of a neutral third party (the mediator). It is intended to provide a more efficient and cost-effective method for resolving disputes between parties outside of the court system while ensuring that their rights are protected.
What Does the Law Mean for Parties Involved in Disputes?
The law lays out a framework for mediation and outlines the requirements that parties must meet in order to participate in this process. Here are some key takeaways from the new draft law below.
Confidentiality and Privacy
Mediation must be conducted in a confidential setting, which includes both in-person and virtual sessions. The mediator is bound by a duty of strict confidentiality and all parties involved in the mediation session must agree to maintain a similar standard of confidentiality. This means that the mediator and all participants must agree not to disclose any confidential information obtained during the mediation process and nothing that is discovered during mediation may be used as evidence in court.
Selecting a Mediator
The mediator must be approved by the Saudi Centre for Commercial Arbitration, with the appropriate qualifications and accreditation. The mediator will act as an impartial arbiter and facilitate communications between the parties in order to reach a resolution that is acceptable to everyone involved. The parties involved in the mediation session are responsible for paying the mediator, and the mediator’s fees should be agreed upon before the mediation session begins.
If one of the parties decides to terminate the mediation, the law states that all information discussed during the session must remain confidential and may not be used in any subsequent legal proceedings. Failure to appear for a mediation session will also result in a termination of the mediation, and any expenses incurred in relation to the session will be borne by the party that failed to appear.
The agreement reached through the mediation session must be recorded in writing and signed by both parties. This agreement will be enforceable by law and the parties are expected to abide by the terms of the agreement. There are a few exceptions to this, such as cases in which one or both parties are discovered to have been fully competent at the time of the agreement or if the mediator seriously violated their duties during proceedings.
How Does This Law Benefit Businesses in Saudi Arabia?
The introduction of this draft law is a positive development for those seeking to resolve disputes through mediation. Not only does it bring the Kingdom in line with international best practices for commercial mediation, but it also facilitates a more business-friendly environment. It creates a framework that ensures fairness, transparency, and privacy for all parties involved.
The law provides legal certainty and clarity, which should encourage more individuals and entities to explore mediation as an alternative dispute resolution method. As a result, businesses will benefit from a faster and more cost-effective way to settle disputes and will benefit from greater peace of mind while operating in Saudi Arabia.