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QCAT: Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal

Late last year the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal ("QCAT") was created. As well as taking over from a range of specialist tribunals, QCAT has taken over the Small Claims and Minor Debt jurisdictions. This has implications for debt recovery and consumer claims.

The Small Claims Tribunal and Minor Debt jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court previously provided simplified access to the court system for claims up to $7,500.00. Under QCAT these matters are referred to as Minor Civil Disputes and the monetary limit has been increased to $25,000.00 which is more than double the limit under the old system. This can be expected to result in an increase in the number under the new system.

In recent years, the cost of taking even the simplest matter through the Magistrates Court has grown significantly. This is especially so when a judgment debt has to be enforced. Although successful parties may feel vindicated, on a commercial basis it is rarely worthwhile to proceed with a claim for a small amount in the Magistrates Court. The successful party is rarely awarded more than a small fraction of their legal costs. This can be frustrating because pursuing a valid claim often costs more than the amount in dispute.

Although QCAT will handle a wide range of claims, it is important to note that not all claims under $25,000.00 can be heard by QCAT. It will not, for example, hear a claim for nuisance caused by a dog barking.

Debt Disputes

A QCAT debt dispute must be for less than $25,000.00. Such a claim can arise from an unpaid invoice or account, rent arrears, work done or goods supplied with the cost having been agreed beforehand, money lent and not repaid, wages owing, an IOU, a dishonoured cheque or any other dispute where there is no need for QCAT to calculate the amount of the loss.

Consumer and Trader Disputes

A QCAT consumer and trader dispute involves a claim against another person, trader or company arising out of a contract for the supply of goods and services. Again claims are limited to $25,000.

Importantly, consumer and trader claims are only available against traders. They are available, however, to both consumers and traders, so a trader is able to make a small claim against another trader.

The Claim Process

As with any dispute, the complaint should be addressed to the other party. If the dispute cannot be resolved then an application can be made to QCAT on the form available from its web site. Claims must be made within 6 months of the event which causes the dispute.

Typically, QCAT will order mediation to give the parties the chance to resolve the dispute. If this is not successful a hearing will take place. The parties must represent themselves unless QCAT considers it appropriate for a lawyer to be present. Both mediation and hearings can take place by teleconference. Parties must generally pay their own costs.

Appeals are possible from QCAT decisions, but only on matters of law.

Winning at QCAT

Our experience with the previous Small Claims and Minor Debt jurisdictions as well as other tribunals where parties represent themselves shows that well organised parties are more likely to succeed.

Wilson/Ryan/Grose can assist clients who want to make a claim at QCAT or must defend a claim at QCAT. We do this by providing tailored advice on the legal issues which should be covered at a hearing and by checking that appropriate evidence is ready to put before QCAT. Please contact Ross Sheehy on (07) 4760 0100.

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wilson/
ryan/grose Lawyers
Level 1, 15 Sturt St  PO Box 1113 Townsville QLD 4810
  Ph: (07) 4760 0100  Fx: (07) 4772 6017 www.wrg.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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