An alternative to the traditional An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate. and A body set up to hear and decide disputes, usually with less formality and less strict rules of evidence than in a court proceeding. system is to utilise private dispute resolution schemes. The particular industry you are dealing with might operate such a scheme, which include the following:
- The Energy and Water A public official appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints against government departments and statutory authorities. A specialised ombudsman resolves consumer complaints in a particular industry, for example the banking ombudsman for the banking industry. See also statutory authority. Victoria (EWOV) investigates and facilitates the resolution of complaints and disputes by consumers against electricity, gas and water providers. Binding determinations can be made up to the value of $20 000 or $50 000 with the To agree to something being done, to approve an action or arrangement. See also informed consent. of all parties.
- The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) investigates and facilitates the resolution of complaints and disputes by consumers against telecommunications Formal delivery of legal documents to a person to tell them there are court proceedings against them which they must defend, or to make sure a witness in a case knows when they have to go to court to give evidence. providers, including landline, mobile phone and internet services. The TIO can handle complaints where the Under the Australian Consumer Law, a person who buys goods or services for less than $40 000 or for personal or home use. became aware of the complaint event up to six years before coming to the TIO. However, the TIO A document that sets out what a person wants to happen to their money and other property after they die. not investigate complaints where legal proceedings have commenced. The TIO can make binding decisions (up to $50 000) and recommendations (up to $100 000).
- The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) replaced the Financial Ombudsman Service, the A debt that does not have to be paid until some future time. Being allowed to pay later, in the future, for something you are getting now. and Investments Ombudsman, and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal on 1 November 2018. AFCA deals with complaints from consumers and small businesses about all financial service entities (including banks, credit unions, brokers, financial planners, insurers, superannuation funds, finance companies, payday lenders, and Money that is owed by one person or business to another. collectors). AFCA can consider consumer complaints worth up to $1 million and can (1) A standard set of working conditions, including pay rates, for a particular industry. (2) A court decision that a party receive compensation, such as an award of damages to compensate them for physical injuries. up to $500 000 in compensation. For small businesses, compensation is capped at $2 million. AFCA can consider disputes about credit facilities of up to $5 million.
- Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) is an independent government agency that resolves domestic (residential) building disputes. The focus is on A form of alternative dispute resolution. The parties negotiate with the help of an independent person called a conciliator. The aim is to sort out the dispute by mutual agreement, rather than having a decision made by a court or tribunal. See also arbitration; mediation; negotiation., which involves bringing together both parties to discuss and resolve matters in dispute. The DBDRV can appoint qualified expert assessors to conduct building assessments to assist the resolution process. If conciliation does not resolve the dispute, the Chief Dispute Resolution Officer has the power to issue binding dispute resolution orders and certificates.
- Parties involved in DBDRV dispute resolution have the right to apply to VCAT for a review of certain actions and decisions made by the DBDRV.
- The Public Transport Ombudsman (PTO) investigates and facilitates the resolution of complaints from people using and affected by public transport in Victoria. This includes complaints about metropolitan and regional trains, trams and buses, as well as ticketing systems and impacts of public transport works. The PTO can deal with complaints about:
- service delivery and disruptions;
- ticketing and myki, including refunds and reimbursements;
- conduct of public transport staff;
- public transport infrastructure, land and vehicles; and
- public transport works.
The PTO will attempt to resolve the complaint by agreement, but in the absence of an agreed outcome, the PTO can make a binding A finalisation, especially a decision made by a court or tribunal to finalise (determine) a case. up to the value of $5000. The PTO cannot investigate complaints about fare increases, government policy or public transport fines. As well as individual complaints, the PTO can also investigate broader systemic problems relating to public transport.
All these schemes are independent and free. They are also less formal and generally speedier than tribunals and courts. You are generally required to give the business a chance to resolve the complaint before the scheme will consider it. When resolving a dispute, the schemes are required to take account of law, good industry practice and what is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances.
For a list of A way of resolving a dispute outside the court system. There are different kinds of alternative dispute resolution, including arbitration, negotiation and mediation. schemes, see ‘Contacts’, at the end of this chapter.