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Complaints about your business 

How we handle complaints about your business
NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal

How we handle complaints about your business 

If a customer complains to NSW Fair Trading about your business, there are a number of steps we follow to resolve the matter.

Step 1

We ask the customer if they have tried to resolve the problem with your business. If they haven't, they will be advised to do so. In most cases the customer will need to show that they have tried to settle the dispute before lodging a complaint with Fair Trading.

If you and the customer are able to resolve the matter, then there is no need for further action.

Step 2

However, if after trying to settle the matter a customer is still unhappy, the customer can approach Fair Trading for assistance. Fair Trading provides information and assistance in negotiating a resolution to a dispute. Fair Trading will then usually contact your business by phone and attempt to sort out the problem.  

An officer will assess the evidence on both sides and if the complaint is justified, Fair Trading will take further action. This may involve asking the customer to lodge a formal complaint in writing with supporting evidence. 

Step 3

If Fair Trading believes there has been a breach of the law, a range of options may be undertaken depending on the severity of the breach. These options include: a verbal warning, investigation, issuing a formal caution, issuing a penalty notice and or prosecution.  

Step 4

If you or the customer is dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaint, the consumer can take the matter to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). This brings an independent voice to the dispute without the need for costly legal battles. During an informal hearing, the Tribunal will assist the parties negotiate a settlement through conciliation, and if that fails the Tribunal will decide the case. The Tribunal’s decision is legally binding and must be followed by both parties.

For more information on the NCAT see the section below.

Step 5

A final resort on the customer’s part would be to take the matter to court. Fair Trading may assist in this but is only likely to get involved if there has been a clear breach of the law, or the matter has wider ramifications for NSW consumers generally. Where there is a breach of the law, Fair Trading’s action in court is normally a separate action to assisting the consumer with their dispute.

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NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal 

If you and the customer have been unable to resolve the matter yourselves, the customer could take the matter to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), an independent, inexpensive and much faster alternative to the courts.

The NCAT hears disputes on a wide range of issues. The NCAT can hear disputes about consumer claims concerning the supply of goods and services and home building matters.

If you are a small business, you may also be considered a consumer if you have a claim against another trader which has supplied goods or services to you, even if the goods are for re-sale.

A conciliator will try to negotiate a settlement that is acceptable to both parties. If conciliation fails, a Tribunal Member will decide the case and make a binding order. A money order can be enforced through the Sheriff’s Office of NSW.

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What claims can the Tribunal hear in the Consumer and Commercial Division? 

The Consumer and Commercial Division of the NCAT deals with consumer claims against business.

The application must:

  • be for $30,000 or less
  • arise out of a contract for supplying goods, services or a related contract
  • be lodged within three years of the date
    • the contract was made
    • of supply
    • supply was supposed to have occurred

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How to make an application 

Application forms are available at Fair Trading Centres, NCAT Registries, the NCAT website and through your Local Court.

The application fee depends on the nature of the dispute. 

For more information about fees go to www.ncat.nsw.gov.au

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What happens when an application is lodged? 

Each party to a claim (ie. the trader and customer) receives a copy of the claim form from the NCAT Registrar. They are notified of a time, date and place when a Tribunal Member will hear the application.

The hearing will be held as near as possible to where the transaction took place, and will usually take place within six weeks after the application is received by the Registry.

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Need more information? 

For more information about the NCAT's activities call 1300 006 228 or visit www.ncat.nsw.gov.au

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