Consumer & Trader Disputes

The consumer trader dispute claim procedure can be a lengthy and expensive process if not handled appropriately.

At Stone Group Lawyers we can help you with a tailored course of action that is quick and affordable to ensure that you receive the right results.

What is a Consumer and Trader Dispute?

Consumer and Trader disputes are categorised as a minor civil dispute that involves a disagreement between another person, trader or company arising out of a contract for the supply of goods and services valued up to and including $25,000.

What does a Consumer and Trader dispute look like?

Minor civil disputes arise from a breach in a contractual obligation, generally in the form of:

  • a purchase of a good or service that falls below the standard you expect;
  • money you have lent;
  • wages owed from an employer;
  • unpaid accounts;
  • disputes between neighbours; and
  • payment of rent.

What are my rights?

As a consumer the law protects you when purchasing goods by implying certain basic warranties. This means that you are entitled to goods or services that are:

  • of reasonable quality to be sold;
  • do the job the trader said they would or they were advertised to do;
  • match any description or sample given;
  • be free from defects; and
  • have spare parts and repairs available unless otherwise advertised.

Further, you are also legally entitled to a refund (even if there is a sign saying ‘no refund’).

For example, a trader may be liable to refund you if their goods are:

  • faulty, damaged, broken or will not work and you were not aware of this when you purchased them;
  • unfit for the purposes they were sold for (this means the item does not do what it is supposed to do);
  • are different to the description you were given; and/or
  • do not comply with the sample you were shown.

The law also provides protection for services you received that were misleading about price, quality or value and those that involved unfair business practises.

As a trader you are granted the liberty to carry your business of supplying goods or providing services free from dishonest fabricated civil claims. To ensure this, it is imperative that you keep detailed record of transactions: including but not limited to receipts, file notes documenting the provision of service and any documents provided by either party pertaining to the sale or provision of service.

What is my first step?

  1. Negotiate
    The initial step is to attempt to resolve the dispute directly with the consumer or trader. If an agreement can be reached between parties, it is recommended all parties sign the agreement and keep a copy.
  2. Mediation
    If however you are unable to reach a satisfactory outcome, mediation is a cost effective and efficient method in which parties can settle without going to court. An independent mediator trained and accredited to help resolve disputes is engaged at this stage who will act impartially in an attempt to aid parties reaching a mutually agreed solution.
  3. Apply to the Queensland Civil Appeals Tribunal (QCAT)
    The next step then is to apply to QCAT which is an independent tribunal, operating with the aim to resolve minor civil disputes. Depending on your circumstances, the appropriate forms must be lodged after which time QCAT will invoke its power under the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 and make a determination based on the facts presented. It is important to note that QCAT’s jurisdiction in each matter will vary depending on the relevant legislation pertaining to the dispute. For example, in a building dispute, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) must first be invoked before QCAT can receive an application.

Recent cases heard by QCAT illustrate that certain persons will not meet the definition of traders. These persons include:

  • lawyers (see Morales v Murray Lyons Solicitors [2010] QCATA 87);
  • podiatrists (see McDonald v Kenmore Podiatry Pty Ltd [2012] QCAT 126);
  • professional town planning consultants (see Davy v Ryter Planning Pty Ltd [2010] QCATA 96); and
  • valuers (see Early Property Group Pty Ltd t/a Early Group Valuers v Cavallaro [2010] QCATA 65)

Where do I go from here?

The consumer trader dispute claim procedure can be a lengthy expensive process if not handled appropriately.

Each dispute presents its own unique facts which require a tailored course of action to ensure the consumer trader dispute is dealt with in a manner that is quick and affordable whilst ensuring a favourable outcome is obtained.

If you are unsure about your legal rights regarding a potential minor civil dispute please contact Stone Group Lawyers on (07) 5635 0180 to assist you in this matter.