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
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.
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
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.