Smartsociates provides support to interacting parties throughout the lifecycle of a project by ensuring that Clients get a good value for their money and the Service Providers receive their due revenue for services delivered. We are aware that not all the times that projects will run smoothly and are subject risks of cost overrun, schedule overrun, non-conformance to scope, mis-communication between interacting parties. For this reason Smartsociates runs a dispute resolution framework which supports Clients and Freelancers or Service Providers to manage these risks so all parties can enjoy the full benefits of our services.
1.0 Conditions for Release of Funds
Funds that have been escrowed within Smartsociates payment system will be refunded released to Buyer or Seller if certain conditions are met.
1.1 Work completion and Approval of Invoice
The default arrangement for a smooth process is that once a Client (Buyer) places an order, funds will be escrowed on the Smartsociates payment system and the payment will be released to the Service provider (Seller) upon acceptance of work and invoice approval by Client.
1.2 Mutual Consent
A project may be discontinued due to some unforeseen circumstances affecting either the Buyer or Seller. Both parties can come to agreement on where to release the escrowed funds and make this known to Smartsociates. Smartsociates will release the appropriate funds to the beneficiary less the administrative fee. If funds are to be released to the seller, this will be less the transaction fee calculated based on the value of the project.
This applies to both fixed price and rolling contracts. For fixed price jobs if the Service Provider fails to meet the agreed milestone deadline as defined in the Work Pack and does not communicate with Client 60 days after the milestone deadline, then the project is deemed as dormant. The Client will receive a refund except the Freelancer has raised a dispute. The Freelancer (Service Provider) will be notified of inactivity prior to the 60 days elapsing.
Similarly if Client fails to review and comment on project output submitted by Freelancer within the agreed timescale does not communicate with Freelance, the Freelancer is entitled to raise an invoice for the work done and if the invoice is not approved within 60days after submission, then the Funds held for the Project within Smartsociates will be released to the Freelancer except the Client has raised a dispute. However the Client will be notified of inactivity prior to the 60days.
For Hourly or Rolling Contracts conditions for dormancy will be define separately weekly or monthly payments. For weekly payments a period of inactivity of 14days from either the Client or Freelancer is considered dormant and either party will receive a notification of inactivity following which funds will be released to the due party except there is a pending dispute on the project.
For Monthly payments dormancy will be defined as 60days of inactivity within which funds will be released to the due party except there is pending dispute on the project.
1.4 Illegal activity
If Smartsociates identifies and establishes any illegal act, abuse or misuse of our system by either Client or Freelance, Smartsociates will ensure that Users are held liable for their actions in accordance with the law and funds held within Smartsociates will be made available to the appropriate enforcement Authority as required by the Law of the jurisdiction.
1.5 Project Cancellation
Any interacting party has the right to cancel an ongoing project if circumstances does not permit the project to continue. However it is expected to be done by mutual consent of both parties and once an agreement is reached committed funds will be released to Freelancer and any residual balance will be refunded to the Client.
1.6 Alternate Dispute Resolution or Third Party Mediation Settlement
The last stage of Smartsociates dispute resolution framework is Alternate Dispute Resolution process of which the outcome is binding. If a Client and a Freelancer enter into a dispute that ends up in an arbitration decision, Smartsociates will implement the decision by releasing the funds to the due beneficiary based on the outcome of a third party mediation settlement.
2.0 Framework for Fixed Price and Rolling Contracts
Smartsociates Dispute Resolution Framework covers three aspects: Negotiation, Mediation and Arbitration and this in line with the EU Alternate Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes Regulation 2015.
We will encourage interacting parties to make every attempt to settle their disputes through negotiation by communicating with each other using the platform communication tools and resort to a resolution that keeps the relationship between both parties going. However if both parties cannot resolve a dispute on their own, Smartsociates shall be notified by creating a dispute via the link provided on the users’ dashboard. The Party that raises the dispute will be referred to as Claimant and the party that has to respond to the dispute will be referred to as Respondent.
2.2 Smartsociates Mediation
Once Smartsociates receives a notification for a dispute, Smartsociates shall contact both parties to get their part of the story and also collect evidence from work activities for the project in question. Evidence shall be provided within 14 days from when they receive a notification for a new dispute. Smartsociates shall impartially review all facts and evidence provided by both parties and shall propose a settlement resolution that is not binding. If this decision is acceptable by both parties, Smartsociates shall proceed to implement the decision and funds shall be release to any beneficiary in accordance with the agreed settlement.
Dispute for project value less than £1500 shall stop this level and shall be handled by Smartsociates dispute resolution team. Smartsociates shall apply a time limited approach for dispute resolution depending on project value.
Mediation settlement for disputes less than £100 shall be based on a submission of less than 250 words.
Mediation Settlement for disputes of between £100 to 1000 shall be based on a submission of less than 500 words.
Mediation Settlement disputes of between £1000 to £2000 shall be based on a submission of less than 500 words and 5 minutes maximum phone call with mediator if required.
Mediation Settlement for disputes above £2000 shall be based on a submission of less than 500 words and 10 minutes maximum phone call with mediator if required.
2.3 Alternate Dispute Resolution
Smartsociates Alternate Dispute Resolution shall apply to projects of value above £1,500. The aim to arrive at a binding settlement which will be agreed by both Claimant and Respondent.
If any of the parties refuses to agree to Smartsociates proposed resolution then Smartsociates shall be notified on the decision to transfer the dispute to an approved Alternate Dispute Resolution Provider within 14 days from when a Client and Freelancer receive a mediation notification of Smartsociates proposed mediation settlement. Once a notification is received, and the matter shall be escalated to an ADR Status managed by Smartsociates.
• Appointment of an Approved Alternate Dispute Resolution Provider
Smartsociates has framework agreement with approved Alternate Dispute Resolution providers. Once dispute status has been escalated to this level, fees will be collected from both the Claimant and Respondent to cover the cost this service. Upon collection of fees, dispute will be transferred to one of our Providers along with all details of the project and evidence within the keeping of Smartsociates.
The third party mediator shall make contact with either party to fix a hearing appointment and if possible arrange an online meeting to discuss the matter. Smartsociates will be notified of the outcome of the third party mediation.
• Cost of ADR and Third Party Mediation Services
The cost of Dispute Appointment Service and that of the ADR provider will be equally covered by both the Claimant and Respondent. For this reason both parties have to agree to this path before the progress with the ADR option.
Appointment of an ADR Provider via the ODR is free of charge. However once an ADR Provider is appointed, the cost for running the settlement process shall be paid by both Respondent and Claimant before the matter is transferred to the ADR Provider.
The full amount of the third party mediation service shall be made payable to Smartsociates by both the Claimant and Respondent before the process can be initiated. Once the full payment is received Smartsociates shall notify the ADR provider before they can be notified by Smartsociates to commence work.
Below is a full schedule of the cost of third mediation service:
|Project Value||Cost||Max Duration of Mediation|
|More than £1,500 and Less £5,000||£300||2 Hours|
|From £5,000 and above||£600||4 Hours|
Proceedings for the ADR and final settlement or Arbitration outcome shall be enforceable by the Court of Law.
• Communication and Language of Mediation
The Language for any Alternate Dispute Resolution Activity shall be English Language. All information and document used for this proceeding shall be in English Language
• Duration of Mediation Service
The final decision shall be made within a period of 60 days from the date of commencement of any proceedings.
• Compliance with Smartsociates Dispute Resolution Framework
8.0 Contacting us