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Dispute resolution process

Office of the Small Business Commissioner – effectively resolving commercial disputes

The role of the Small Business Commissioner and the Office of the Small Business Commissioner

The role of the Small Business Commissioner (the Commissioner) and the Office of the Small Business Commissioner (OSBC) is to assist disputing parties with their negotiations and mediation.  

The Office is an independent statutory office, underpinned by the Small Business Commissioner Act 2011. A key object of the Act is to help to resolve business-to-business or business-to-government disputes or complaints in a timely manner and avoiding the need for costly, time-consuming litigation.  

It is important to note that the Office operates in the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) space where the conversation is non-partisan and based upon the broader interests of disputing parties (as compared to any legal rights that might be determined by a Court or Tribunal).  

This Office expects all parties to negotiate professionally and in good faith. Where it is appropriate, the Commissioner may offer the parties to opportunity to resolve their issues through formal mediation. For more details on how we deal with disputes, please see Dispute Resolution - Overview.

When negotiating, we generally communicate between the parties to a dispute by telephone and email.  We encourage the parties to a dispute to explore options to agree on settlement terms. Negotiation involves reaching a compromise to resolve matters in dispute.

What is outside of OSBC’s role?

We will provide general advice to parties, but we cannot and will not provide legal advice. Further, the Office is not an enforcement agency, nor a Court or Tribunal. The Commissioner has only limited abilities to require or compel any action by a person (e.g. under the various Industry Codes – see our website). The Commissioner cannot therefore, make any Order requiring a person fulfil an obligation or to pay a debt for example. Only the Courts are able to do these types of things.

Raising a Formal Dispute

If you would like us to assist you further, please complete the Lodge a Dispute form under the ‘Dispute Resolution’ heading.

Once a dispute is lodged:

When a dispute is lodged with this Office, we may seek further information or other documents, for example, a copy of a lease. The Commissioner (or the OSBC) will then commence making preliminary enquiries pursuant to the Commissioner’s functions under the Small Business Commissioner Act 2011 (SA).

Depending upon the nature of the dispute, we may:  

  • contact any relevant person to seek more or better information (including copies of relevant documents) regarding the matters in issue; and/ or
  • commence negotiations towards a mutually agreeable outcome (remembering that that we are unable to force any party to settle or to take any specific action); and/ or  
  • where appropriate (and at the Commissioner’s entire discretion), seek to arrange a formal Mediation.

Throughout the process, an OSBC Officer will remain in contact with the parties, keeping them updated on developments, usually by email or telephone.

Mediation

Some matters do proceed to formal Mediation. In many cases, a reasonable fee will be required for this service. For further information please read The OSBC’s Fact Sheet Mediation at the OSBC.  

The Commissioner’s panel of Mediators are each experienced, qualified and accredited under the National Mediation Accreditation Standards.  

On most occasions, Mediations will be conducted here at 99 Gawler Place in Adelaide, but electronic conferencing may be used provided the necessary confidentiality can be ensured.     

OSBC mediations generally resolve within a single ‘mediation day’

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