Dispute resolution

With the commencement of the Victorian Small Business Commission on 1 July 2017, the VSBC continues to provide an efficient and low cost small business dispute resolution service and is now able to resolve disputes between businesses and a broader range of organisations, including professional associations, educational institutions, industry bodies and certain special bodies within government.

Providing dispute resolution services is a key role of the VSBC – the VSBC helps to resolve business disputes through preliminary assistance or mediation.

The process is simple: we invite both parties to discuss the issues they have and engage them in trying to resolve the dispute. Our aim is to help you avoid the cost, time and emotion of litigation.

The VSBC arranges confidential mediation of your dispute, under the guidance of an independent mediator.

Our service is designed to help you keep control of your dispute and avoid the cost, uncertainty, delay and disruption of litigation.

Our services

We can help you by providing accessible dispute resolution for your business.

The VSBC’s service:

  • is independent and confidential;
  • is no cost or low cost;
  • is quick with high success rates;
  • doesn’t require legal representation;
  • helps resolve disputes by thinking outside the square;
  • helps to ensure business relationships continue;
  • helps parties to avoid long, costly, emotional and disruptive litigation.

How much does it cost?

There is no application fee to refer a dispute with the VSBC.

Preliminary assistance is free. This where a dispute resolution officer will engage with the parties over the phone or email prior to mediation to try to resolve the dispute.

Mediation is $195 for each party for a half day session for:

  • retail leasing disputes
  • small business disputes

Mediation is $195 for each party for a mediation session (up to one day) for:

  •     farm debt mediation matters

Mediation is $95 for each party for a half day session for:

  • taxi operator – driver disputes
  • owner driver / forestry contractor disputes

The VSBC will determine  whether a mediation should be scheduled for half a day or a full day.

Mediation costs are payable on the day of mediation.

There are three main elements to the VSBC’s dispute resolution service:

Information and Education: the VSBC provides information to businesses on their rights and obligations under relevant legislation to assist them to prevent and resolve disputes.  Information is provided by telephone, email and online.

Preliminary Assistance and Resolution: when an application for assistance with a dispute is received by the VSBC, staff will initially engage with both parties to see if the dispute can be resolved before proceeding to mediation.  Staff expertise in legislative provisions and dispute resolution can often assist in bringing the parties to a pragmatic resolution. If the dispute cannot be resolved at this stage, staff will explain the benefits of mediation to the parties and encourage them to participate, avoiding the emotion, delay, cost and distraction of litigation.

The same process does not apply for disputes under the Farm Debt Mediation Act 2011 or the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983, where the VSBC role is limited to arranging and conducting mediation.

Mediation: the timely, low cost resolution of a dispute through mediation can maintain a business relationship and let the parties quickly get back to business.  A binding Terms of Settlement between the parties brings clarity and control to resolution of the dispute.

New forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution

The VSBC also continues to explore new forms of dispute resolution, including facilitated meetings and determinations.

Facilitated Meetings

The Small Business Commission Act 2017 enables the VSBC to determine what form of ADR is most appropriate to use in dealing with a dispute.  A ‘facilitated meeting’ is a form of dispute resolution which can be used by the VSBC where a formal mediation cannot be arranged.  An example of an appropriate use of the facilitated meeting form of ADR is where a dispute involves many parties and common issues.

Determinations

A new, voluntary Motor Vehicle Insurance & Repair Industry Code of Conduct commenced operation on 1 May 2017. The Code, which can be found here, provides for the mediation and determination of smash repairer disputes by the VSBC. The VSBC is an Approved Determination Provider under the Code to determine smash repairer disputes, where mediation has failed.

This is a new function for the VSBC under the Small Business Commission Act 2017 which will be run as a pilot project to be reviewed after 12 months.

Under the Code, an Application for Determination of a dispute may be made by either party via the Code Administration Committee (CAC) within 28 days of an unsuccessful mediation. Following an unsuccessful mediation, the VSBC will issue a certificate confirming the unsuccessful mediation date.

Following receipt of an Application for Determination, the respondent to the Application will be given 28 days within which to provide a submission to the Application and VSBC in response to the Application. The Applicant will have seven days from receipt of the respondent’s submission to provide any further comments.  

The VSBC may contact the parties to obtain further information and will then appoint an independent Determiner to determine the dispute ‘on the papers’ having regard to the facts, applicable laws and evidence. The VSBC will contact the parties to advise the Determiner’s contact details and to provide a tax invoice and the Determination Agreement which the parties must sign. Each party pays $500 and the VSBC subsidises the cost of the determination process. The Determiner will decide if it is necessary to meet with the parties prior to determining the dispute.

A final and binding Determination will be made as soon as practicable after the Determiner has received all submissions and evidence and will be provided to the parties within ten working days after it is made. A de-identified copy of the Determination will be provided to the CAC.

The VSBC Determination process can be found here.

The VSBC Application for Determination can be found here.

The Submission for Determination Template can be found here. (Note: This document is provided as a template and guide only. Additional pages may be added to this document or a different format may be used.)

The Determination Agreement Template can be found here. (Note: The actual Determination Agreement with the names of the parties and the Determiner will be circulated to the parties for signature once the Determiner is appointed by VSBC.)

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