Consumers are avoiding lengthy and costly court proceedings in disputes with traders in almost 90 per cent of cases where there is a complaint, thanks to a new compulsory conciliation process.
Minister for Business Services and Consumers John Rau says the new dispute resolution method which forces traders to the table has achieved positive outcomes in 169 of 193 cases (88.6%) in its first year in operation.
“When a trader and a customer are not able to resolve a dispute by themselves, it can often end up in court where the process is stressful, expensive and time consuming,” Mr Rau said.
“We have made changes to consumer law so that the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs can force traders to the table and work through their dispute with the customer with an umpire from Consumer and Business Services.
“The trained conciliators listen to both parties and seek to ensure they leave they table with a signed agreement that is then enforceable.
“This is about providing consumers with a better method of resolving disputes, particularly when the company in question seek to avoid the customer or provide them with an inadequate response.”
The main industries subject to compulsory conciliation conferences include: Solar (35% of all conciliations), building (22%), mobile phones (7.5%), car hire (6%), internet sales (5%), plumbing (3.5%), wedding photos (2.5%) and second hand cars (2.5%).
If an agreement is reached as a result of the conciliation it will be documented and signed by the all parties. A copy of the agreement is given to each party and who must then comply with all terms.
If either party fails to carry out their obligations under the agreement then the other party or the Commissioner can apply to the Magistrates Court for an order enforcing the terms of the agreement.
Traders can face fines of up to $10,000 for not attending compulsory conciliation.
For more information about compulsory conciliation, visit the Consumer and Business Services website; www.cbs.sa.gov.au.