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Tel: 1300 30 40 54
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The Magistrates Court deals with disputes between consumers and traders with claims of up to $75,000.
You can opt for a less formal, more private, process without the need for lawyers if your claim is less than $10,000. For claims over $10,000 the matter is dealt with in a court (with or without lawyers).
Going to court is not necessarily expensive or difficult. This fact sheet provides information on what you need to do to be ready to make the best possible case.
If you decide to take someone to court, you will need to describe your claim on a court form (available from a court registry, printed from the Magistrate Court, or completed through the Magistrate Court’s online lodgement process). In any case, the description or details of your claim should simply summarise what happened and what you want. It may include the date of transaction, the date when any problem arose and details of the transaction or issues between the parties.
We recommend you don’t attach contracts or photos to the form, but merely refer to them in the description and bring them to court conferences and hearings.
Cases between a consumer and a trader that involve damages shouldn’t be lodged as consumer/trader claims, but rather as claims for debt or damages (minor case or general procedure claims).
The following are scenarios based on actual complaints to Consumer Protection, and suggested ways to describe the claims on court forms.
A consumer contracted a removalist to move her belongings to her new house. When the consumer inspected the lounge suite after the move she found it was damaged. The removalist claimed the damage was there prior to moving the lounge suite and would not accept liability. Neither party took photos of the lounge suite prior to the move and both denied they caused the damage. As they were unable to reach an agreement, Consumer Protection referred the consumer to the Magistrates Court for further action.
A consumer contracted a tradesperson to build a fence around his property after the old one fell down in a storm. The tradesperson originally stated construction would be completed eight weeks after the deposit is received. Three months after taking the deposit no work had been done. The tradesperson had been delaying the construction of the fence by not showing up, not having the right tools or blaming it on the supplier of the product. After the consumer lodged a complaint with Consumer Protection the tradesperson told the Conciliation Officer he would come within the next week. After the tradesperson did not show up again the consumer was referred to the Magistrates Court for further action.
A consumer hired a videographer to film and produce a DVD of her wedding. The consumer received the DVD within a reasonable time; however, it was not of the same quality as a sample DVD she was shown prior to her wedding. The trader claimed he did the best he could with the venue conditions on the day and is not willing to refund the cost of the DVD. The consumer still wishes to keep the DVD as it’s the only footage of the wedding she has. Consumer Protection referred the consumer to the Magistrates Court as the matter was unable to be conciliated.
A consumer purchased a boat advertised as having a rebuilt engine with only 48 hours’ use. The motor failed after six hours’ use. A mechanical inspection confirmed a major failure of the outboard motor with evidence of previous substandard repairs on the crankcase. The mechanic didn’t consider the motor to be repairable. The trader refused to have the matter conciliated by Consumer Protection, stating he can't afford to replace the engine.
The following provide further information about going to court and court orders.