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Small businesses to have fast access to help in resolving disputes in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) is providing small businesses with fast access to help in resolving a range of disputes that could arise during the coronavirus (COVID- 19) crisis period.

Help includes assistance early on, often just over the phone, and where disputes can’t be resolved this way, access to a mediation service that works.

Victorian Small Business Commissioner Judy O’Connell said she has seen an increase in commercial tenants and landlords contacting the VSBC over situations where the tenant is having a lot of difficulty paying rent.

“We encourage tenants to first read their lease closely to make sure they understand their rights and obligations and if anything isn’t clear, they should seek legal advice or contact us for help,” Commissioner O’Connell said.

Under Victoria’s commercial tenancy relief scheme, the legislation for which passed in Parliament yesterday, the VSBC is providing advice and help to resolve retail leasing disputes through its mediation service.

“It’s vital that tenants and landlords communicate as early as possible to try to reach an agreement, and if this fails, they can come to us.”

Small business owners can also go to the VSBC for help with disputes over goods and services and unpaid invoices, and disputes with financial providers and insurers.

“With so many businesses struggling to pay for goods or not being able to supply services that had been agreed to, it’s so important that small business owners know they can turn to us for help if they find themselves in a dispute.”

Small business owners might find that they’re not being paid by big businesses that have extended their supplier payment terms at this time.

With the Victorian Government paying all outstanding supplier invoices within 10 business days, Commissioner O’Connell said big businesses should be doing the same.

“We’re calling on big businesses to do what is right and pay small business suppliers as soon as they can, and in instances where this isn’t happening, small business owners can seek our help.”

For help in resolving business disputes, contact the VSBC or lodge an application online.