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Justice in arbitration: the consumer perspective

Farshad Ghodoosi (Department of Business Law, California State University Northridge, Northridge, California, USA)
Monica M. Sharif (Department of Management, California State University Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 17 May 2021

Issue publication date: 27 July 2021




Arbitration – a binding private third-party adjudication – has been the primary legal way for resolution of consumer disputes. Consumers, however, rarely use arbitration to resolve their disputes while evidence suggests that their disputes remain unresolved. Contrary to the current prevailing emphasis on who is winning in arbitration, this study aims to establish that consumers believe that the court is more just than arbitration, regardless of the outcome. This study further establishes that consumers’ perceived poor legitimacy and lack of familiarity, not cost calculation, are what drive their justice perception.


In three experimental studies, participants were presented with scenarios in which they were to envision themselves amid a consumer dispute. The scenarios were followed by survey questions that examined individuals’ perceptions of justice. Three mediating variables of legitimacy, cost and familiarity were also examined.


The results suggest that consumers hold a high perception of justice for court as opposed to arbitration. Even though a favorable outcome increases consumers’ perception of justice, the results suggest that consumers find courts to be fairer regardless of the outcome. Familiarity and legitimacy mediate this relationship, not cost.


Current research does not provide an adequate explanation for consumers’ underutilization of arbitration nor does it focus on correct factors. Studies in psychology and law primarily focus on ex post feelings of individuals after dispute resolution, ex post favorable outcomes and ex ante cost–benefit analysis. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the present study for the first time analyzes ex ante consumer perception of justice.



Ghodoosi, F. and Sharif, M.M. (2021), "Justice in arbitration: the consumer perspective", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 626-647.



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