Arbitration in distribution contracts – The « IDArb »

Time to read: 5 min

Arbitration is a well-known system for dispute resolutions, and works as an alternative to judicial procedures. Parties are free to choose this system and to submit their conflicts to specific arbitrators or institutions.

It is usually considered that arbitration is a good way to solve conflicts but preferable to those arisen between big corporations or involving important amounts of money. Although this assumption is generally accepted, there is an alternative for distribution disputes suitable for smaller companies and cases with lower amounts claimed.

And here is the essential question: why a manufacturer/franchisor or a distributor/agent/franchisee should choose a specialized arbitration for their agreements instead of a more general one or, even, a judicial procedure? The answer seems clear: an arbitrator with knowledge not only in procedural questions but in substantive matters will be able to better understand the conflict between the parties and, therefore, to grant a better award. Take into account that, for instance in my Country, Spain, a Judge of First instance can deal in the same day with a distribution contract, a construction case, a conflict between heirs, and a discussion in a community of owners. All of this requires the analysis of different facts and completely different legislations and it is true that specific commercial problems do not usually have judges experts in international trading. But, how to choose a good specialized arbitrator? And, how to choose the arbitral procedure and the institution in terms of organization, neutrality, costs and time?

The IDArb was created in 2016 by the International Distribution Institute ( in collaboration with the Chambre de Commerce d’Industries et de Services de Genève (CCIG and the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution (SCAI and offers to the distribution sector (distribution, agency, franchising, selective distribution) a specialized, expedited and affordable arbitration procedure, not only for big international corporations but also for smaller cases. In fact, the expedited procedure is particularly foreseen for amounts below one million CHF (approx. 880.000 €).

The objectives and main characteristics of IDArb which make it suitable for all the distribution disputes are:

  1. A list of specialized arbitrators experts in this particular field is available for ad hoc or institutional arbitration and IDArb is able to assist the parties to choose one of them.

Specialized arbitrators from different countries and legal cultures have been appointed by a Selecting Committee reviewing their experience in one or more fields of distribution law. Therefore, parties can trust that the arbitrator will have concrete skills in the business with an in-depth understanding of the disputed issues. This is not a general knowledge on commercial law, but a concrete one on distribution, expressly verified by the Committee. Parties can even examine some examples of cases in which every arbitrator has been involved in.

  1. In order to maintain its high quality, the IDArb organizes training seminars for its appointed arbitrators. In these seminars, they are able to discuss about the general management of the arbitration, the procedural aspects and how to solve possible incidents in collaboration with the Institutions and their Rules. This will make all the proceedings more manageable and the possible difficulties more easily solved. Last seminar took place in Geneva in November 8, 2018 and participants have discussed, amongst other subjects, on evidences, witnesses and document production.
  2. The expedited arbitration procedure permits the parties to have a tailored procedure managed by SCAI under the Swiss Rules of International Arbitration, specially adapted for small disputes in the field of distribution.
  3. Time is also an essential element: the award in the expedited procedure will be issued in a maximum term of six months (only exceptional circumstances permit the Court to extend such time-limit), and, if parties agree, it can be decided only on documentary evidence.
  4. Costs are reasonable and known in advance.
  5. And, as final but important remark, IDArb has also adopted some recommendations where, upon request of the parties, mediation is favoured, the arbitrator my consider giving a preliminary non-binding and provisional assessment of the dispute and should have a pro-active position in order to facilitate an amicable settlement.

To have further information about the clause to use in the contracts, the list of specialized arbitrators, their skills, experience and complete CV, and the recommendations for expedited arbitration, you can follow the link:

Ignacio Alonso
  • Agency
  • Corporate
  • Distribution
  • Franchising

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