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Dispute resolution overview

How can the Small Business Commissioner help with a dispute?

The Small Business Commissioner will assist with:

  • businesses which believe that they have been treated unfairly in their commercial dealings with other businesses in the marketplace
  • resolving retail tenancy disputes between businesses and landlords
  • resolving other disputes e.g. Franchising, farming disputes and the like
  • resolving disputes between small businesses and State and/or Local Government bodies.

How will an enquiry or dispute be handled by the Office of the Small Business Commissioner?

The Office of the Small Business Commissioner will deal with each enquiry or dispute in a methodical approach. The key phases of this will be:

  • Initial assistance
    The Commissioner and the office staff will look at each issue and provide services designed to resolve the conflict or dispute at that stage. Information will be provided such as responsibilities under relevant legislation, for example the Retail and Commercial Leases Act 1995. When a dispute is lodged then an officer within the Office of the Small Business Commissioner will be assigned to handle that case and assist in the resolution of the dispute. The Commissioner or his delegate will make contact with the other party or parties to request preliminary information when necessary.
    If the dispute can be resolved at any of the early stages, the aim is to do so.
    There is no cost for this service.
  • Pre-mediation
    Once the necessary information is provided by each party or parties, staff within the Office will discuss options with each party to try to resolve the dispute. Again the aim is to resolve the dispute or issue in a timely manner. All parties will be encouraged to act in good faith during any discussions or negotiations. Again the aim at this stage is to reach an outcome that is satisfactory for all parties. Any settlement that is reached by this process will be documented and be legally enforceable.
    There is no cost for this service.
  • External mediation
    An option that may be put to the parties is to attempt to resolve the dispute by the use of an independent external professional mediator. The panel of mediators was set up by an open tender process and an appropriate mediator will be assigned by the Commissioner to assist the parties to resolve the dispute.

    When parties agree to mediation then the Commissioner will organise a suitable venue, time and date agreeable to the parties. Note that mediations will be confidential to the parties. Any settlement that is reached by this process will be legally enforceable. If required an additional mediation could be arranged if parties wished that to occur. Parties are still able to take a matter to the Court system is they so desire.

    In the case of an external mediation a fee may apply, which will be $195 ex GST per party per day for mediation services.

Other dispute resolution mechanisms

The Office of the Small Business Commissioner will attempt to resolve every dispute that is brought before it. This may utilise facilitation processes, direct negotiation and the like in addition to, or as an alternative to mediation. Each dispute will be individually assessed.



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