Arbitration is a process where, by agreement, parties to a contract submit their differences or disputes to the consideration and decision of one or more independent persons. In the United Kingdom arbitration has been the preferred method of dispute resolution in many trades and industries and in commerce. Shipping, insurance, banking, commodities, construction, commercial rent review, metals and consumer contracts are all areas of activity which use arbitration as their normal method of dispute resolution. In the Middle Ages, and even before, when merchants fell into dispute in connection with their trade, they would often refer it to another merchant of high esteem for his decision and the disputing parties would agree to abide by his decision. In the United Kingdom, the system of law used is the common law; this must be distinguished from the civil law which is operated on the continent of Europe and in many other countries throughout the world.