Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre

“A Centre of Excellence for continuing professional development (CPD), research and knowledge exchange in dispute resolution, complaint management and consumer policy and a leading provider of ombudsman and complaint handling courses.”

The Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre (CDRC) is a centre of excellence in consumer dispute resolution and consumer policy. The Centre provides continuing professional development (CPD), research, and consultancy services to business, government, and third sector organisations in the UK and across the world.

The Centre’s particular expertise concerns dispute resolution between individuals and large organisations, for example, between consumers and businesses and between citizens and the government. Our unique focus is on understanding consumer perspectives on dispute resolution and developing the idea that users should be at the heart of dispute resolution systems and processes.

The Centre also has broader interests in relation to consumer policy, and issues such as regulation, consumer advice, and enforcement.

CPD Courses

mWe are a leading provider of ombudsman and complaint handling courses including:

  • Public Services Complaint Management Award

A two day accredited course for professional complaint handling staff developed in close consultation with practitioners.  The course will be of interest to those working in local government, health and social care, central government and non-departmental public bodies.  Organisations wishing to improve their complaint handling processes and individuals seeking professional accreditation will be particularly interested in this course.

The next course will be running on the 7 & 8 March 2018 in London.

General course details can be found in our course flyer

More in-depth information can be found on our information PDF

For a booking form please contact  Early bird discount on course fee available until 31st January 2018.


  • Professional Award in Ombudsman and Complaint Handling Practice

A two day accredited course approved by the Ombudsman Association aimed primarily at those working in the assessment and investigative functions of ombudsman and other second-tier complaint handling organisations.  The course has been designed to take participants through the journey of a complaint, from receipt to decision, and will provide the practical skills and background knowledge necessary to discharge those functions to a high level of competence.

The next course will be running on the 27th & 28th February 2018 at the QMU campus in Edinburgh.

A further course will be running on the 11th & 12th September 2018 in London.  Early bird discount on course fee available until 31st July 2018.

For more information about the course and a booking form, please contact 


  • Professional Certificate in Ombudsman and Complaint Handling Practice

A three day accredited course approved by the Ombudsman Association designed to provide theory, discussion and the application of practice relating to a number of subject areas relevant to the work of ombudsmen.  Subject areas covered include: The principles of effective remedy, ADR, Human Rights and Equality.  This course may be of equal interest to relatively new and more experienced complaint handlers.

The next course will be running on the 21st, 22nd & 23rd May 2018 at the QMU campus in Edinburgh.

For more information about the course and a booking form, please contact   Early bird discount on course fee available until 31st March 2018.




Research and Consultancy Services

Research services

The Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre’s research services provide clients with unrivalled expertise in the areas of consumer dispute resolution and consumer policy. A distinctive feature of our approach is the Centre’s mix of practitioner and academic staff, which allows us to provide clients with the latest insights from both research and practice. The Centre has a strong track record of delivering policy focused research for clients, which combines academic rigor with a practical focus.

View our latest report, examining the best approaches to ensure effective consumer representation in the governance of financial services released today (Friday 20 October 2017). View today's report and the executive summary.

Case studies

Citizens Advice – Comparative Performance Analysis of ADR in Selected Markets
The Centre (in partnership with the University of Westminster) was commissioned by Citizens Advice to conduct research into the performance of ADR schemes. This involved a mapping study of existing ADR providers and evaluation of their performance against a range of criteria. The research also involved conducting interviews with consumers to find out about their experiences of complaining. Read the full report.

Ombudsman Services – Defining Consumer Ombuds Schemes
The Centre was commissioned by Ombudsman Services to conduct research to identify the defining characteristics of modern consumer ombuds schemes. The research involved a desk-based study and interviews with experts in the field. The research report provides important clarity on the roles, functions, and processes of consumer ombuds schemes. Read the full report.

Legal Ombudsman – Models of Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Centre was commissioned by the Legal Ombudsman to research best practice in alternative dispute resolution. The research involved selecting 10 case study organisations
across the world and identifying a range of different approaches to effective dispute resolution. The research was particularly concerned with how to design a good ADR scheme and provided a model and toolkit for ADR design. Read the full report.

Legal Ombudsman – The Future of Ombuds Schemes
The Legal Ombudsman commissioned the Centre to survey the current policy landscape for ombuds schemes in the UK. This involved policy analysis of the strategic drivers which were likely to affect UK ombuds schemes now and in the future. The research used qualitative interviews with senior practitioners to understand how schemes were adapting to change. The research provided a model for the future development of ombuds schemes and a number of recommendations for policy. Read the full report.

NESTA – Gripes, Grumbles, and Grievances
The Centre (in partnership with Stirling University) was commissioned by the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts (NESTA) to look at the way in which complaints could be used to drive innovation in public services. The research collected examples of good practice and used these to identify the key factors which facilitate innovation in pubic services. The report provided a range of policy recommendations and is a key resource for those interested in learning from complaints. Read the full report.

Care Inspectorate – The Outcome of Complaints
The Centre was commissioned by the Care Inspectorate to investigate how people who had complained to them about a care service felt about the outcome of their complaints. The particular focus of the research was on whether complainants felt that complaining had been worth their while and whether they felt that anything had changed as a result of their complaint. The research involved qualitative interviews with complainants. The research provides important data about the way in which complainants experience complaint processes and the need to feedback on the outcome of investigations. Read the full report.

Please contact the Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre’s Director, Carol Brennan, to discuss how we can help you with your organisation’s research needs:

Consultancy services

The Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre offers a full range of consultancy services, cutting across dispute resolution and consumer policy. Particular areas of expertise include organisational reviews, evaluations of complaint and dispute processes, consumer engagement, consumer regulation and enforcement, and consumer-focused service improvement. The Centre’s staff combine perspectives from law, public management, consumer policy, and communications to provide a holistic service to clients. To find out more about our areas of expertise, please click on the staff profiles below.

Case studies

Utilities Disputes Ltd (New Zealand)
We have been commissioned to conduct the Five Year Independent Review of Utilities Disputes Ltd. This involves a review of the organisation’s effectiveness against the key criteria for industry based alternative dispute resolution schemes. The methodology includes desk based research and fieldwork. This consultancy recognizes the Centre’s international expertise in consumer dispute resolution and organisational reviews. The report of the review will be published in due course on Utilities Disputes Ltd’s website.

Ombudsman Services
The Centre was appointed to act as Ombudsman Services’ Interim Independent Assessor. This involved dealing with complaints from dissatisfied users who had exhausted the internal complaints process of the organisation. 88 complaints were reviewed during the period of appointment, with a written adjudication provided in each case. An annual review featuring recommendations to the organisation was prepared and published in the organization’s Annual Report.

Welsh Language Commissioner
We were commissioned to conduct a review of the Welsh Language Commissioner’s complaints process. This involved carrying out a series of interviews with key members of staff within the organisation; reviewing the organization’s complaints procedures, guidance and founding legislative instruments; observing staff handling complaints; and reviewing a sample of case files. The review made a number of recommendations. The review also conducted a comparative analysis of approaches to collecting customer feedback used by independent complaint handling organisations.

Audit Scotland
We were commissioned to conduct an evaluation of Audit Scotland’s correspondence process. This process involved receipt of correspondence from members of the public in relation to the performance of public bodies. The process was evaluated with reference to best practice established in the Ombudsman Association’s Guide to Principles of Good Complaint Handling. The evaluation included examination of a sample of cases and interviews with key stakeholders in the organisation. The project resulted in a number of recommendations being made to the client and a significantly improved process for dealing with customers’ complaints and concerns.

Please contact the Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre’s Director, Carol Brennan, to discuss how we can help you with your organisation’s consultancy needs:

Postgraduate Study (including MSc starting in January)

The Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre (CDRC) offers opportunities for postgraduate study for an MSc Dispute Resolution (with start dates in both January and September), Master's by Research (MRes) and PhD degrees. Members of the CDRC team are experts in consumer/citizen dispute resolution and combine both professional expertise and academic insight. They are active researchers and their teaching draws on the latest developments in dispute resolution research, policy and practice.

The team offers supervision of postgraduate study and we welcome enquiries and applications relating to consumer behaviour in disputes, dispute system design, complaint management, mediation, administrative justice, consumer policy, effective communication, ombudsman schemes, access to justice, consumer complaints and negotiation.

Consistent with the applied focus of research conducted within CDRC, we especially welcome applications for research that involves collaboration with practitioners, policy-makers and other research users.

Initial enquiries can be made to the Director, Carol Brennan, or to individual members of the Centre who are engaged in the relevant area of research.

Carol Brennan

Centre Director
Tel: 0131 474 0000

  • CDRC News

Consumer representation in financial services

Report into consumer representation in the payments sector released today. A new report, examining read more

20 October 2017

CDRC Newsletters