Dispute Tribunal and Its Function

What is a Disputes Tribunal?
The Disputes Tribunal is a place where disputes are settled. The tribunal referee holds the hearing in private with you and the trader. The referee helps the parties to reach an agreement. If you can't agree, the referee looks at the law, the facts of your case and then decides what is fair.

The Disputes Tribunal also deals with disputes between private individuals. The Ministry of Justice administers the tribunals. There is also a Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal dealing with claims involving Motor Vehicles.

It Allows you a Hearing outside of the Courts
The Disputes Tribunal provides a forum for resolving disputes in an informal way. Unlike the courts, you are heard without judges or lawyers present. Before deciding on using the Tribunal, talk to a lawyer to determine whether the tribunal is the best way to deal with your problem. If you finally decide to take your claim to the tribunal, a lawyer will advise you on how to present your case to the tribunal referee.

Who can use the Disputes Tribunal?
The Disputes Tribunal is used to deal with matters of dispute involving businesses, as well as non-business people. This section deals with the process of a consumer taking a business or trader to the Disputes Tribunal, in order to settle a dispute. A claim can be made by anyone, even if he/she agreed not to make a claim, or if the contract stated, “no responsibility accepted”.

Why use the Disputes Tribunal Option?
The Disputes Tribunal provides a way for settling claims or disputes faster and at a lower cost than the normal court system. It used to be called the "Small Claims Tribunal" which focused on claims involving small amounts of money.

The Disputes Tribunal is laid back and informal. Both parties present their cases in their own words and with their own evidence (without lawyers present). This is carried out before an independent person known as a “referee” who hears the arguments and makes a ruling or decision. There is no judge or jury as it is not a court of law.

What Claims can the Tribunal Hear?

  • Whether work has been done properly: (For example, were the professional wedding photographs an acceptable standard?)

  • Whether goods paid for were the goods requested: (For example, your sofa was covered in different fabric from the fabric ordered.)

  • Whether the amount charged for goods or work done is higher than the quote given: (For example, the final repair bill for your bike was higher than the quote.)

  • Whether a trader is liable when your property goes missing while being repaired.

  • Whether advertising claims are false or misleading and you suffer loss or damage as a result: (For example, when an advertisement leads you to believe a CD player is included in the price of a stereo system when it is an extra cost.)

  • When there has been a breach of the Hire Purchase Act or the Credit Contracts Act.

  • When you need to enforce your rights under the Consumer Guarantee Act