Types of disputes we can help with

We can help small business operators in Western Australia to resolve a wide range of disputes, including those related to:

For disputes not listed above we can direct you to other sources of assistance.

Contracts

Every small business has to deal with contracts; most business relationships will involve some sort of contractual commitment or obligation.

Ensuring contracts are put in writing and that each party understands their obligations can help you avoid disputes. If you are issuing contracts, including a process for handling complaints and resolving disputes will make it easier to resolve problems if they arise.

If you are in a contractual dispute it is advisable to:

  • check your contract to be clear on your facts
  • discuss the issue with the other party or parties
  • note any discussions or agreements in writing
  • formally write to the other party
  • if you cannot reach agreement, contact us for further assistance, including access to our alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service
  • seek legal advice.

Leasing business premises

If disputes between tenants and landlords arise it’s important they are resolved as cost-effectively, and with as little damage to the relationship, as possible.

The first step is to read the lease and other associated documents to clarify the rights and obligations of each party. In many cases, a well-written lease will make it clear what both parties have agreed, and the outcome will be obvious.

If the lease or other documents do not clarify the issue contact one of our commercial leasing advisers for guidance or seek legal advice.

Retail shop lease disputes

If your dispute relates to a retail shop lease you can contact us for help to resolve the matter. Our case managers will assist both parties to clarify or resolve the issues through negotiation and mediation.

Most retail shop leases will require a party making an application to the State Administration Tribunal (SAT) to contact us first to obtain a certificate from the Small Business Commissioner.

TIP: To determine whether your retail shop lease dispute requires a certificate or can proceed directly to the SAT, use the SAT application wizard. (Select the Commercial Tenancy (Retail Shops) Agreement Act 1985 as the legislation you are applying under).

Non-payment or non-performance of goods and services

Your business is considered to be a ‘consumer’ (buying for personal use) when you purchase goods and services for your business that are:

  • valued at less than $40,000
  • valued at over $40,000 and are normally bought for personal, domestic or household use
  • vehicles and trailers used mainly to transport goods on public roads

In these instances you are entitled to recompense under consumer guarantees if something goes wrong (unless the guarantee specifically excludes ‘commercial use’). However these guarantees do not apply if goods are purchased to be resold or transformed into a product that is then sold.

TIP: If your business supplies goods and services to customers you must provide consumer guarantees as set out in Australian Consumer Law.

If a customer has not paid you and the non-payment is not as a result of the goods or services failing to perform correctly, you should follow our procedure to recover a debt.

Non-payment in the construction industry

In Western Australia, the Construction Contracts Act 2004 provides a rapid adjudication process to resolve building and construction sector payment disputes. The Act allows for the appointment of an adjudicator (a registered, trained professional who is experienced in construction contract administration and dispute resolution) and sets a strict time limit on the process so decisions can be made quickly and payment is not held up.

Adjudication claims must be made within 90 business days of the payment dispute arising; this could include the amount being in dispute, payment not being made on time or not paid in full.

TIP: The Department of Commerce website has more information on payment disputes in the construction industry.

Fair trading, competition and misuse of power

Businesses may find themselves in dispute with other business operators due to their unfair market practices, anti-competitive behaviour or misrepresentation. There are laws in place to provide protection from this type of behaviour. More information can be found on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website.

Our alternative dispute resolution service can assist you to negotiate with the other party.

Government departments or agencies

Running a small business means you will need to comply with government rules and regulations at local, state and federal levels. Occasionally, you may find yourself in dispute with them in relation to issues such as licensing, utilities, planning, policy, leasing premises and tendering.

We can assist you to negotiate and mediate your dispute with a government department or agency.

Franchises

The Franchising Code of Conduct has an established process for resolving disputes between franchisors and franchisees.

Under the code, before proceeding to mediation you must first write to the other party outlining the nature of the dispute, the preferred outcome and the actions that will resolve the dispute. If the matter has not been resolved after three weeks the matter can be referred to mediation.

Mediation can be provided by the Office of the Franchising Mediation Adviser or through our dispute resolution service.

Assistance with other types of dispute

Type of dispute

Where to get help

Workplace relations/ employee disputes

For disputes involving employees you will need to know which industrial relations system you belong to and contact the relevant authority for assistance.

 

Telephone, mobile or internet service provider

 

Contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

 

Electricity, gas, water

 

Contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman WA

Banks and financial services providers

 

There are two services to resolve disputes with financial service providers. The website of each ombudsman provides a search function to find out whether your financial service provider is a member.

 

More information