Commercial mediation is a voluntary and confidential process that allows parties in a dispute to work together with the help of a neutral third party, known as a mediator, to find mutually agreeable solutions. Commercial mediation can offer a cost-effective and efficient alternative to debt collection for resolving disputes. This guide provides an overview of commercial mediation and how UK businesses can effectively utilise this process.

What is commercial mediation?

Commercial mediation is a process where a trained mediator assists parties in identifying issues, facilitating communication, and exploring potential solutions. It is commonly used to resolve various types of business disputes, including contract disagreements, partnership disputes, employment conflicts, intellectual property disputes, and more.

When should mediation be used?

Commercial mediation is used when credit control processes have been exhausted and unsuccessful, but before legal process has commenced.

Ideally the mediation will be successful and formal litigation will then be unnecessary. 

Steps in the commercial mediation process

1. Preliminary consultation

Businesses interested in mediation should first consult with a mediator to discuss the case and evaluate whether mediation is suitable.

2. Agreement to mediate

All parties involved must agree to participate in mediation voluntarily. An agreement outlining the process, confidentiality, and other relevant details is signed.

3. Joint session

The mediation usually starts with a joint session where each party presents their perspective on the dispute. The mediator facilitates constructive communication.

4. Private sessions

The mediator meets privately with each party to delve deeper into concerns, interests, and potential solutions. This helps the mediator understand underlying issues.

5. Negotiation and agreement

The mediator guides the parties through negotiations, encouraging them to explore options and find common ground. If an agreement is reached, it is drafted and signed by the parties.

6. Closure

Once an agreement is reached, the mediator summarises the terms, and the parties confirm their understanding. The agreement becomes legally binding upon signing and is effectively forms a new contract between the parties, which supersedes the previous trading agreement for that transaction

advantages and disadvantages of commercial mediation 

Advantages of commercial mediation

  • Mediation is generally less expensive than litigation, as it involves fewer legal fees and court-related costs.
  • Mediation can lead to quicker resolutions compared to the often lengthy court processes.
  • Mediation focuses on open communication and collaboration, helping parties maintain or even improve their business relationships. Litigation, on the other hand, can strain relationships due to its adversarial nature.
  • Mediation proceedings are confidential, ensuring that sensitive business information, negotiation details, and potential weaknesses are not exposed to the public.
  • The parties have more control over the outcome and can craft solutions tailored to their specific needs and concerns. 
  • Mediation allows for creative and flexible solutions that may not be available through a court judgement.
  • The mediator, as a neutral third party, can help parties see the issues from different perspectives and guide them toward mutually beneficial solutions.
  • As the parties are actively involved in creating the solution, they’re more likely to adhere to the terms.

Disadvantages of commercial mediation


  • Mediation doesn’t guarantee a resolution. If parties are unable to find common ground, they may need to pursue other means of dispute resolution, such as litigation.
  • In cases where there is a significant power imbalance between parties, one party may feel pressured to agree to terms that are not in their best interest.
  • If one or more parties are unwilling to engage in good faith or are uncooperative, the mediation process can be less effective.
  • Mediation agreements are not legally binding until they are formalised and signed by the parties. If a party later refuses to uphold the agreement, further legal action may be required.
  • In some cases, mediation might not be suitable if parties require specific legal remedies that can only be obtained through a court judgement.
  • While generally quicker and less resource-intensive than litigation, mediation still requires time and effort from the parties, especially in preparing for sessions.
  • In highly complex disputes involving intricate legal issues, mediation might not provide the depth of analysis and legal precedent that a court proceeding would.
  • The effectiveness of mediation can heavily depend on the skills and approach of the mediator. A poorly chosen mediator might not facilitate productive discussions.

When should mediation happen?

Mediation can be used in different stages of a dispute, such as before legal action. It can be effective for complex, multi-party, and personal disputes and is encouraged by courts to help preserve relationships, save time and costs. 

Ultimately, the timing of mediation depends on the willingness of the parties to engage in the process and the nature of the dispute. 

How to prepare for debt mediation

While debt mediation can be a useful and less expensive way to resolve payment disputes, prevention should be your businesses' long term strategy. Taking measures such as implementing an effective credit control process can help to reduce late payments to prevent measures such as debt mediation being necessary.  

If you would like more information on how to resolve late payments and navigate the debt collection process, watch our webinar in partnership with dispute resolution law firm, Escalate. 

You’ll leave with the confidence to tackle payment disputes, while protecting your client partnerships.