Dispute resolution

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Sometimes Bisq trades don't go smoothly, and dispute resolution is required to determine an outcome.

Dispute resolution on Bisq has 3 formal levels: trader chat, mediation, and arbitration.

Most issues on Bisq are minor and easily resolved when traders communicate with each other. Mediation is intended to resolve the vast majority of remaining issues. Arbitration is a rare last resort measure for extreme scenarios.

All trades placed from 1st January 2023 will use a new trade protocol that is designed to further improve the decentralization of Bisq. The new protocol is a result of the proposal Distribute Burningman role to contributors who burned BSQ which was vote on in Bisq DAO cycle 41 with 100% approval.

The protocol change means trades placed from 1st January 2023 will have an important difference should the trade end in arbitration. This is as a result of the accepted proposal do not pay out the security deposit of the trade peer to the arbitration case winner.

What this means in practice is IF a trade ends in arbitration the arbitrator will only payout the trade amount plus one users security deposit. Previously they paid out the trade amount plus both user's security deposits. Therefore, traders ending in arbitration will notice the following:

  • The arbitration 'winner' will not be compensated for the inconvenience caused by the trade going to arbitration.
  • The arbitration 'loser' will not be be refunded their deposit partially or in full.

This change is necessary for the security of the new protocol.

Remember arbitration should be seen as the last resort. All efforts should be made for trader to come to an agreement with themselves or via the mediator.

Level 1: Trader chat

If you're having any issues completing a trade, or if you just want to keep your counterparty informed (e.g., in case you're delayed completing your end of the deal), you can send your counterparty a message through Bisq's end-to-end encrypted chat mechanism.

This allows traders to communicate with each other throughout the course of a trade to resolve potential trade issues quickly without involving a third party like a mediator or arbitrator.

Click this icon to start trader chat.

Trader chat rules

Good communication is key

Good communication between traders can resolve most disputes. It is recommended for traders to communicate to their peers any issues they are having to keep their peer informed.

However, responding to chat messages is always optional

If you’re not comfortable responding to chat messages, don’t respond. You have no obligation to communicate over this medium with traders. You have to respond to mediator's dispute and arbitators when needed.

Do not send links of any kind

For safety. If you want to send a link, describe it instead.

Not allowed:



Hey, could you look up txid 4b5417ec5ab6112bedf539c3b4f5a806ed539542d8b717e1c4470aa3180edce5 in your favorite block explorer?

Do not encourage trading away from Bisq

Trades away from Bisq lack Bisq’s security mechanisms. If something goes wrong with an off-Bisq trade, you’re on your own.

Do not send sensitive information like private keys, passwords, etc

Such information is never wise to share in general, and is never needed to solve trade disputes on Bisq.

Do not engage in foul play

Any attempts to exploit counterparties with social engineering scams, etc. are prohibited.

Respect a peer’s decision to avoid responding

If a peer seems unresponsive, or has signaled their intention to refrain from chatting, please respect it and don’t pressure them.

Keep conversation scope limited to the trade

Please don’t use Bisq’s trader chat as a general-purpose messenger. Unnecessary exchanges add unnecessary strain to Bisq’s peer-to-peer network.

Keep conversation friendly and respectful

Because friendlier traders resolve disputes quicker, and no one wants to deal with a jerk.

Hopefully, by following these rules, you can work directly with your trading peer to solve issues quickly and amicably.

Level 2: Mediation

If issues remain after chatting with the counterparty, you may need to engage a mediator.

Mediation can started any time during or after the trade period by selecting the trade in Open Trades and pressing 'Ctrl' + 'O'

Engage a mediator. This button only appears after the trade period has ended.

How mediation works

Mediators evaluate a trade situation between two users and make a suggestion for a payout. They do not have a key in the multisig escrow, so their suggested payout proposal cannot be authoritative.

Trading peers should do their best to cooperate with the mediator and provide information they request, and are required to respond to messages within 48 hours. Should a peer not respond to a mediator in 48 hours they might be penalized.

Likewise, mediators may take up to 48 hours to respond to your messages. Please don’t panic if you don’t hear back immediately.

When a mediator suggests a payout:

  • if both peers agree with the suggestion, the payout is completed and the trade is closed
  • if one or both peers disagree with the suggestion, a peer can choose to engage an arbitrator to re-evaluate the situation (see arbitration below)

When are you eligible for a penalty?

If a trader does not follow the trading rules they risk being penalized. Any penalties will be taken from the trader's BTC security deposit.

The trader at fault will be charged the penalty and their security deposit will be deducted a BTC amount.

The trader that is wronged will receive the BTC penalty as compensation. The payout transaction for the trade will include funds from the other trader's security deposit.

For more information about what to expect you can see the table of penalties that acts as a guideline to traders, mediators and arbitrators to ensure penalties are in a fair and impartial way.

Who are mediators?

Mediator roles are bonded roles in the Bisq DAO. Anyone can propose to become a mediator, but approval will depend on the candidate's familiarity with Bisq trading rules and the network’s need for more mediators at the time a proposal is made.

Once a proposal to become a mediator is approved by DAO voting, the mediator must lock a 10,000 BSQ bond to become active. This bond helps to ensure their continued availability and performance in the role, and can be confiscated by DAO voting in extreme circumstances (negligence, foul play, prolonged absence, etc).

You can see more details (current role owners, regular updates, etc) on the role issue.

Where to communicate with mediators?

You can communicate with your mediator in the Bisq app. When you open mediation for a trade in Bisq a mediation support ticket in opened in the app. This can be found in the Support > Mediation section in the app.

It is preferable to communicate with the mediators in the Bisq app.

If you any reasons you are not able to communicate with the mediators in the Bisq app you can reach out to them on Matrix.

The mediators usernames on Matrix are:

How to find your mediators?

The name of your mediator should be displayed when you open a mediation ticket. You will see the mediators name under the column 'support agent'.

If for any reasons you have a trade that is not in mediation, but you would like to know the name of the mediator assigned, please see Finding your mediator.

Level 3: Arbitration

Reject mediator's suggestion in order to start arbitration.

Arbitration is the last formal layer of dispute resolution on Bisq. It is meant to be rare. If the measures described below sound extreme, it’s because they are only meant to be employed for extreme circumstances.

Arbitration is only available when:

  • one or both traders reject a mediator’s suggested resolution
  • the time-locked transaction (delayed payout transaction) made at the start of the trade is published by one of the peers.

The time-locked transaction sends all funds in the multisig escrow (i.e., those of both trading peers) to a donation address.

  • If the trade was created prior to 1st January 2023 the donation address used will be the legacy burning man (the owner of this address is bonded and approved by DAO voting).
  • If the trade was created post to 1st January 2023 the donation address used will be the based on the new protocol, Burning Men who have burned BSQ in order to receive the BTC from trades that are sent to the donation address.

In both instances above, the delayed payout transaction can only be published 10 days after the deposit transaction is confirmed (for altcoin trades) or 20 days after the deposit transaction is confirmed (for fiat trades).

Think of this time-locked transaction as a "safeguard transaction" or a "fallback transaction"—it's a last-resort option to be exercised only if nothing else is working out.

Mediation is expected to be the optimal resolution for both traders. If the trade goes to arbitration the arbitrator will payout out the trade amount plus one peer's security deposit. This means the total arbitration payout will be less than the mediation payout. Both traders agreeing to the mediator's suggestion is the happy path. Requesting arbitration is meant for exceptional circumstances, such as one peer not responding, or if a trader is sure the mediator did not make a fair payout suggestion.

This dynamic essentially makes bitcoin confiscatable, enabling a sort of mutually assured destruction to drive dispute resolution on Bisq without trusted third parties.

Practically, here’s how arbitration works:

  1. If you are trading with an unresponsive peer or feel the mediator’s suggestion was unfair and think you will get a better outcome in arbitration, publish the time-locked transaction as soon as it’s possible and request arbitration.
  2. Collaborate with the arbitrator to clarify the details of your case.
  3. If the arbitrator sides with you, they will personally reimburse you.
  4. The arbitrator will then request reimbursement from the Bisq DAO for the reimbursements they’ve paid. This isn’t something you need to worry about as a trader, but it’s good to know how the process works on both sides.

Arbitrators are required to respond to messages within 5 days, so it may take a bit longer for them to respond than mediators (you should still respond to messages within 2 days).

If all else fails

One advantage of a flat, decentralized governance structure that encourages user involvement is that no user should ever feel hindered from receiving a fair trade outcome because of a single individual's decision. Bisq isn't a black-box corporation with inscrutable processes. It's an open software project that is governed openly.

Therefore, for whatever reason, if the process above doesn't work for you, you can make a reimbursement request yourself in the Bisq DAO. The Bisq DAO—not any single individual—is the ultimate arbiter of policy and decision-making for all things Bisq.

In fact, this is how arbitration will eventually be handled anyway.