There are a range of services available nationally to help small businesses to resolve disputes, including the Office of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.
Office of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
The Office of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman provides access to Dispute Support, an online dispute resolution referral tool available to help small businesses to find the most appropriate low cost dispute resolution tool for their disputes. The tool also includes information on the phases of dispute resolution and tips for avoiding disputes.
Contact the Office of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman:
p: 1300 650 460
Australian Taxation Office
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) aims to resolve disputes as early as possible, including during the audit and objection stages. In addition to direct negotiation and settlement, the ATO offers in-house facilitation, as well as mediation, conciliation and early neutral evaluation with an independent third party to provide assistance in resolving a dispute.
Facilitation is designed to assist you and the ATO to resolve tax issues with the assistance of a trained, impartial and independent ATO facilitator who has not been involved in the dispute. Facilitation may reduce the cost and time it takes to resolve a dispute.
Contact the ATO:
The Commonwealth Ombudsman investigates complaints about the administrative actions of Australian Government departments and agencies.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman aims to resolve complaints impartially, informally and quickly, through consultation and negotiation, and if necessary, by making formal recommendations to the most senior levels of government.
As a general rule, the Commonwealth Ombudsman will not, and in some cases cannot, investigate complaints until they have been raised directly with the agency involved.
Contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman:
p: 1300 362 072
Please note, the Commonwealth Ombudsman is not responsible for complaints about:
- telecommunications − Telecommunications industry Ombudsman www.tio.com.au
- banking/financial services − Financial Ombudsman Service www.fos.org.au
- media − Australian Communications and Media Authority www.acma.gov.au
- working conditions or pay − Fair Work Ombudsman www.fairwork.gov.au
- energy and water services − state based
The Fair Work Ombudsman and the Fair Work Commission are the two key organisations in Australia’s workplace relations system. Each has a different role within this system. If you are unsure which is the most appropriate organisation to assist with your dispute, you can contact them on the details below.
Note – Western Australia is not part of the national system. Contact the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission if your business is in Western Australia (1800 624 263, www.wairc.wa.gov.au).
Fair Work Ombudsman
The Fair Work Ombudsman educates people about workplace rights and obligations, investigates breaches of workplace rights and enforces workplace laws.
The Fair Work Ombudsman provides information, advice and help about correct pay, conditions (such as annual leave or sick pay) and workplace rights.
Contact the Fair Work Ombudsman:
p: 13 13 94 (press option 3)
Fair Work Commission
The Fair Work Commission is the national workplace relations tribunal. It makes decisions about the national minimum wage and can create and change modern awards.
The Fair Work Commission hears workplace relation matters and makes decisions about many workplace matters, including unfair dismissal, industrial action, equal pay, right of entry and enterprise bargaining.
Contact the Fair Work Commission:
p: 1300 799 675
The Franchising Code of Conduct (the Franchising Code) is a mandatory industry code of conduct that has the force of law under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
The Franchising Code provides a cost-effective dispute resolution scheme for franchisees and franchisors through the Office of the Franchising Mediation Adviser (OFMA).
OFMA appoints mediators to assist franchisors and franchisees to resolve their problems without going to court. OFMA has a specialist panel of franchise dispute mediators in each state and territory in Australia.
Additionally, OFMA operates a free early intervention dispute resolution service to help parties, at an early stage, to maintain positive commercial relationships and enhance the operating efficiencies of the franchising sector.
p: 1800 472 375
Financial Services Industry
There are two industry ombudsman services available for resolving disputes with financial service providers; Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO).
The ombudsman services offer free dispute resolution services for issues which arise with their member financial service providers, for example disputes about banking, credit, insurance, financial planning, investment, and managed funds.
The website for each Ombudsman provides a search function to find out if your financial service provider is a member of their organisation.
p: 1800 367 287
p: 1800 138 422
The Horticulture Code of Conduct (the Horticulture Code) is a mandatory industry code of conduct under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
The purpose of the Horticulture Code is to improve the clarity and transparency of transactions between growers and wholesalers of fresh fruit and vegetables. It also provides a fair and equitable dispute resolution procedure.
The Horticulture Mediation Adviser provides mediation services under the Horticulture Code. The mediation adviser's role is to help parties resolve disputes and, on request, appoint mediators from a specialist panel of experienced mediators across Australia. The mediator's fees are paid by the Australian Government.
Additionally, the Horticulture Mediation Adviser operates a free early intervention dispute resolution service to help parties, at an early stage, to maintain positive commercial relationships and enhance the operating efficiencies of the horticulture sector.
Contact the Horticulture Mediation Adviser:
p: 1800 475 467
Motor Vehicle Smash Repair
The Motor Vehicle Insurance and Repair Industry Code of Conduct is a voluntary national code of conduct that applies to smash repairers and insurance companies that subscribe to it.
This Code is intended to promote transparent, informed, effective and co-operative relationships between smash repairers and insurance companies based on mutual respect and open communication.
The Code provides two stages of dispute resolution. Disputes in the first instance should be raised under the insurer’s Internal Dispute Resolution (IDR) process. Should a dispute not be resolved through IDR the Code provides an External Dispute Resolution (EDR) process. To initiate EDR a notice of dispute form must be completed.
Further information on the dispute resolution process is available on their website.
Petroleum Retail Industry
The Oilcode is an industry code of conduct under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
The purpose of the Oilcode is to regulate the conduct of suppliers, distributors, and retailers who are involved in the sale, supply or purchase of declared petroleum products.
The Oilcode Dispute Resolution Adviser assists to resolve disputes between distributors, wholesalers or retailers about the supply of motor fuel in Australia.
The Dispute Resolution Adviser has established a national panel of mediators who are available to assist. Parties are still free to commence their own legal action at any time but following the Code's dispute resolution process is expected to result in quicker and less costly dispute resolution.
Contact the Oilcode Dispute Resolution Adviser:
p: 1800 476 706
Accredited Mediators and Alternative Dispute Resolvers
The ADR website provides a directory of qualified and accredited Alternative Dispute Resolution practitioners.
Australian Dispute Resolution Association (ADRA)
The Australian Dispute Resolution Association promotes alternative dispute resolution throughout Australia by providing information, education and training.
Australian Mediation Association (AMA)
The Australian Mediation Association provides private mediation services, consulting services, and education in mediation, communication and negotiation, to help businesses and individuals avoid disputes through planning and to resolve disputes through mediation.
The AMA can assist in a range of disputes including commercial, business and workplace disputes.
The Resolution Institute facilitates a range of dispute resolution methods including arbitration, mediation, conciliation and adjudication. They have a panel of skilled and experienced dispute resolvers covering many commercial areas and professional disciplines.
Produce and Grocery
The Produce and Grocery Code of Conduct (the Grocery Code) is a voluntary code to guide business conduct.
The objectives of the Grocery Code are to promote fair and equitable trading practices amongst industry participants, encourage fair play and open communication to avoid disputes, and to provide a simple, accessible and non-legalistic dispute resolution mechanism in the event of a dispute.
The Produce and Grocery Industry Ombudsman (PGIO) has been set up by industry to resolve disputes about supply of produce to markets and retailers. The PGIO can provide guidance, and if the problem cannot be resolved by the parties in the dispute, then the PGIO will appoint a mediator to conduct mediation.
p: 1800 206 385
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is a free and independent alternative dispute resolution scheme for small business and residential consumers in Australia, with unresolved complaints about their telephone or internet services.
p: 1800 062 058
The Wine Industry Code of Conduct is a voluntary code which aims to set minimum standards for agreements between winegrape growers and winegrape purchasers. It provides an impartial, cost effective dispute resolution system to manage disputes which arise over price or quality assessments.
There is a seven step dispute resolution process for disputes about price and disputes about downgrades and rejections. A copy of the process is available on the Wine Industry Code of Conduct website.
Contact the Code Secretariat:
p: 02 9264 9506
If you require further assistance, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Information Line can provide information and assistance, including helping you to identify the most appropriate service to resolve your dispute. You can contact the Information Line on 1300 650 460.