The term “arbitrator” has been used to describe a person appointed to represent consumers in a dispute about the amount of money they owe to a retailer.
What is a market arbitration?
Arbitrators can apply to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for a contract, such as a sale or a credit agreement, to resolve disputes about prices and terms, such is the market’s demand for them.
Arbitrators have limited powers and can only award monetary damages to consumers and can take legal action if consumers lose a case.
The tribunal can also make recommendations about how consumers should be compensated for the cost of buying or selling a product, and how their money should be spent.
The arbitration tribunal will usually seek to find that consumers have been misled by a retailer, or that the retailer’s policies have caused them to lose money.
What is a consumer arbitration?
Consumer arbitration involves a small group of consumers trying to resolve their disputes.
A consumer arbitration tribunal can hear cases in which a consumer wants a retailer to pay a particular amount, and it can also try to find out whether the retailer has breached its contract by refusing to pay it.
Consumer advocates are concerned consumers are getting less redress when they get into a dispute with a retailer because they do not have the legal right to pursue a complaint.
Consumer advocates say consumer groups and consumer groups are often not allowed to pursue their cases directly with retailers, instead they have to go to the ACCC.
“If they’re not going to come to you to talk to you directly about their consumer rights and consumer issues, they can’t come to a tribunal, and if they’re going to talk directly with you about consumer issues and they’re getting the same kind of access they have with a consumer tribunal, that’s an issue that’s going to have an impact on the consumer experience,” said Julie Brown from the Australian Consumer Law Centre.
How do I find out if my rights are being infringed?
Consumer advocates have concerns about the fact that many consumers have to ask retailers for details about the terms and conditions on their contracts before they can lodge a complaint, and some consumer groups have called for retailers to change how they communicate with consumers.
“What we want retailers to do is to provide consumers with information about their contracts so that consumers are able to understand what their rights are and what they’re entitled to,” Ms Brown said.
The ACCC’s consumer affairs manager, Scott Taylor, said consumer groups had repeatedly raised concerns about unfairness and inaccuracy in consumer contracts.
He said the ACCCs arbitration tribunal had limited powers to enforce its decision and that the consumer tribunal would not be able to apply for damages for consumers if they lost a case and it could only award punitive damages.
Consumer advocates also worry that consumers may be getting less compensation if they lose a dispute between retailers and consumers.
Mr Taylor said the agency was looking at ways to help consumers resolve disputes.
Consumer rights advocates are also concerned about the way courts have interpreted the consumer contract to prevent consumer disputes from going to court.
“We believe the courts are in the wrong, because they’re looking at the consumer as a consumer, not the consumer’s rights as a party to a contract,” Ms Brooks said.