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

If, after trying to settle the matter, a customer is still unhappy, they can approach Fair Trading for help.  Fair Trading provides information and assistance in negotiating a resolution. This may involve asking the customer to lodge a formal complaint in writing with supporting information.  Fair Trading will then usually contact your business by phone and attempt to sort out the problem. An officer reviews the information on both sides and attempts dispute resolution.

Step 3

If Fair Trading believes there has been a breach of the law, there are a range of options depending on the severity of the breach. These options include: education on the law and 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. During an informal hearing, the Tribunal will help 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.

Step 5

And finally, the customer can take the matter to court. Fair Trading can help but only if there has been a clear breach of the law, or the matter has wider ramifications for NSW consumers generally.

NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal is an independent, inexpensive and much faster alternative to the courts.

It hears disputes on a wide range of issues including consumer claims concerning the supply of goods and services and home building matters. If you’re a small business, you may also be considered a consumer if you have a claim against another business which has supplied goods or services to you, even if the goods are for resale. A Tribunal member 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 by the Sheriff’s Office of NSW.

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

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

The application must:

  • be for $40,000 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

How to make an application

Application forms are available through the Tribunal website and your Local Court.

What happens when an application is lodged? 

Each party to a claim (ie. the business and customer) receives a copy of the claim form from the Tribunal 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.

Need more information?

Visit the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal website or call 1300 006 228 for more information.

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