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Dispute Resolution Process

Dispute resolution process

What disputes can SASBC assist with?

The office receives and investigates complaints by or on behalf of small businesses regarding their commercial dealings with other businesses, and state or local government agencies or bodies.

The types of enquiries and cases that the office assists small business operators with include:

  • tenancy disputes between small business operators and landlords (e.g. early release from lease agreements)
  • business transactional issues (e.g. late or non-payment for goods and services, issues with the quality of goods supplied, non-delivery of goods)
  • problems with business related motor vehicles and equipment
  • franchising matters
  • payment disputes in the building and construction industry
  • assisting farmers who find themselves in financial difficulty with their financier or bank through the administration of the Farm Debt Mediation scheme 
  • negotiations between farmers and resources companies in relation to access to farming land.

How will an enquiry or dispute be handled by the office of the South Australian Small Business Commissioner?

Each enquiry or dispute is dealt with in a methodical approach. The key phases of this will be:

Preliminary assistance: SASBC case managers provide expert and experienced advice to small business operators on their rights and obligations to assist them to quickly and efficiently resolve matters that might be preventing them from operating effectively.

This assistance is provided over the phone, via email and through the provision of up-to-date information on the SASBC website pages.

If the dispute can be resolved at any of the early stages, the aim is to do so.

There is no cost for this service.

Pre-mediation assistance: In instances where a small business operator contacts the SASBC about a specific dispute with another small business operator, or with state or local government, one of the team’s case managers speaks with the business over the phone and ascertains information about their issue. The case manager will then make contact with the other party to ascertain their perspective of the matter in issue. 

The case officer continues to act as an impartial intermediary and works with all parties involved with a view of assisting them to resolve the dispute. This process largely occurs through telephone and email exchanges, however, can also involve face-to-face interactions where appropriate.

The aim at this stage is to reach an outcome that is satisfactory for all parties. Any settlement that is reached by this process will be documented and be legally enforceable.

There is no cost for this service.

Low-cost mediation: In instances where disputes are not able to be resolved through the pre-mediation assistance provided by a case manager, the SASBC facilitates a low-cost mediation with an experienced, independent mediator from the office’s panel of mediators to confidentially discuss the issue(s) in dispute and try to reach an agreement between the parties

The SASBC panel of expert mediators have combined expertise and experience in a diverse range of matters, including small business matters, commercial contracts, farming, retail leasing, franchising, mining and building and construction.

The goal of mediation is to assist the parties to explore solutions that are flexible, creative and business driven and to achieve an expeditious resolution of their dispute by agreement without the need to engage with the court system.

A mediation facilitated by SASBC costs $195.00, and where parties are able to resolve their dispute with the assistance of a case manager prior to reaching mediation, the service is free.

For more information about mediation, please click here

The office of the South Australian Small Business Commissioner will attempt to resolve every dispute that is brought before it. This may utilise facilitation processes, direct negotiation and the like in addition to, or as an alternative to mediation. Each dispute will be individually assessed.



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