Civil Claims Guide
Things to consider before applying to VCAT
About this guide What is the fee for applying
This guide is designed to provide you with information on the The fee to make an application under the Fair Trading Act
Civil Claims List. Please read this guide before completing any depends on the amount you are claiming.
applications to the Civil Claims List.
Claim amount Fee
The law changes and the information in this guide may not
accurately reflect the law at the time you apply. Up to $9,999 ..............$35.20
A list of organisations that can help you complete an $10,000 to $99,999 ....$291.70
application to the Civil Claims List is provided on the back $100,000 or over ........$584.50
page of this guide. The fee to make an application under the Motor Car Traders
Act is $35.20.
When to apply to VCAT
Fees correct at 1 July 2008. Fees may change each year.
If you are in a dispute about the supply of goods or services,
VCAT may be able to help you resolve the dispute. Examples of claims under the Fair Trading Act
Before applying to VCAT you should try to settle your dispute To assist you, here are examples some of the subjects of
with the other parties. claims that can be made under the Fair Trading Act. There are
many others that are not listed.
Who can apply to VCAT? • Debts
Anyone can apply to VCAT to resolve a dispute with a supplier • Motor vehicle purchase, panel beating and mechanical
or possible supplier or purchaser or possible purchaser arising repair parts and services
from the supply or possible supply or purchase or possible • Building disputes, renovations and extensions to homes,
purchase of goods and services. Services must be supplied in office, shops and business premises (including landscaping,
trade or commerce and may include some claims relating to concreting, paving, flooring, tiling and carpet laying services)
interests in real estate. Disputes may also include damages for • Cars, motorcycles, caravans and other vehicles
breach of the provisions of the Fair Trading Act that occurred • Boats and marine services
in trade or commerce. • Household goods including furniture purchase and repairs
‘Anyone’ includes traders, companies, businesses, consumers and service to electrical and white goods, computers,
and individuals and regardless of whether the goods or services photocopiers etc
are for private or business use. • Furniture removal and storage services
• Wedding, hairdressing, video, photography, dressmaking,
Under what laws can I apply? reception, and restaurant services
The Fair Trading Act 1999 allows you to make a very wide range • Travel services and holiday accommodation
of applications to VCAT. • Gas, electricity, water, sewerage and telecommunications
Where your dispute is about the purchase of a used car for • Dry cleaning
$40,000 or less, there are limited situations where you may • Introduction agencies
wish to apply under Section 45 of the Motor Car Traders Act • Funeral and stone masonry services
1986. Please seek legal advice before making your application. • Pets and livestock
• Contract to purchase, sell or rent real estate
What are the time limits for applying? • Claims against professionals (including doctors, lawyers and
You must bring claims under the Fair Trading Act within 6 years real estate agents)
of the dispute. Further time limits may apply if the dispute • Goods purchased that are faulty or unsatisfactory services
arose before 1 September 1999. If this applies, you should rendered
contact VCAT for further information. Claims under the Motor • Insurance claims against your insurance company
Car Traders Act must be made within 3 months. • Misleading or deceptive conduct, false representation and
How much can I claim?
• Loss, injury or damage caused to you by anyone involved in
There is no limit to the amount you can claim. a contravention of the Fair Trading Act 1999
The person(s) you are making this claim against may • Injunction requiring someone to stop or to do something
counterclaim for the money you owe them. • Declaration of unfair terms in consumer contracts entered
into after 8/10/03
Who will pay the costs? • Unconscionable conduct in trade or commerce in
In most cases no costs can be ordered for claims for $10,000 connection with supply or possible supply of goods or
or under. For claims over $10,000, generally each party will services.
pay their own costs.
Things to consider before applying to VCAT
If a claim has been made against me, what company?
do I do? You must attach to your application form, evidence of the
• If you want to defend it but do not have a claim against the Australian Company Number (ACN), the company’s registered
person making the claim, go to the hearing and tell your side office and the place at which it carries on business.
of the story. This is what most people do. You can do this by providing copies of company letterheads or
• If you believe you have a claim against the person making the invoices. If you do not have a letterhead or invoice you may
claim, lodge your own claim with VCAT (called a counterclaim). obtain a copy of the company extract from the Australian
Do not delay – if you do you may be liable for costs of an Securities Commission (ASIC) by visiting their website
adjournment. www.asic.gov.au or by contacting the nearest ASIC
Business Centre listed below (a fee will be charged for this
Can I make a claim at VCAT if another court service).
action has already started? Melbourne – Shop 1, 120 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000
Whatever the value of your claim you may ask the court to Tel: 1300 300 630 Fax: (03) 5177 3999
transfer your case to VCAT. The court may do this if it satisfied
that your case arises mostly from a consumer and trader dispute Bendigo – Cahills, Barristers and Solicitors
and it would be more appropriate for VCAT to deal with it. 7-9 View Point, Bendigo 3550
If you are the purchaser (not the supplier), you also have the Tel: (03) 5443 9344
option if the court action is for $10,000 or less and the case Mildura – Mildura Business Services
has not commenced hearing, to pay VCAT the amount the 150 Pine Avenue, Mildura 3500
court is seeking from you so the action will be automatically Tel: (03) 5023 7437
dismissed and transferred to VCAT. If you decide to do this,
you must act very quickly. Warrnambool – Sinclair Wilson, Accountants
177 Koroit Street, Warrnambool 3280
Some Orders VCAT Can Make Tel: (03) 5564 0555
• Payment of money
• Work to be done How do I find out the correct details of a
• Return of goods registered business?
• Payment of damages You must obtain a computer extract which lists the business
address and owners (a fee will be charged for this). You can
• Payment of exemplary damages obtain an extract in person, or by mail or fax from:
• Order payment by way of restitution Consumer Affairs Victoria
• Review or vary a contract 113 Exhibition Street, Melbourne 3000
Office hours are 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday
• Order to comply with a contract
Tel: 1300 55 81 81 Fax: (03) 9627 6210
• Cancellation (rescission) of a contract Or may be obtained by visiting their website at
• Declare a debt is or is not owing www.consumer.vic.gov.au
• Order a party to do or not to do something Extracts are processed immediately if you apply in person, or
no later than seven days after receipt by mail. Attach a copy
• Declare unjust a term of a consumer contract entered into
of the extract to your application form.
How do I apply to VCAT? How do I find out the correct details of a
To make a claim or counterclaim, you must complete the
Application to Civil Claims List form which will be sent to you If the trader or supplier is neither a company nor a registered
business, it may be a sole trader. You will need to check with
with this guide.
the trader or supplier that the details you are supplying are
You must ensure that all parties are named correctly. Failure to correct.
do this may lead to the wrong party(s) attending the hearing
and/or an order being made by VCAT which may not be Other parties interested in the dispute/claim
enforceable. (excluding witnesses)
If you name traders or suppliers as part of your application There may have been persons who have carried out work or
(including yourself) you will need to provide proof that you have supplied goods or manufactured items or supplied warranties
for goods in connection to this claim. Sometimes traders use
named them correctly.
sub-contractors to do their work. Finance companies and
Types of business banks may have an interest. If you are aware of any of these
persons you should supply their full details. You should also
There are three main categories of trader/supplier/business: state why you think they have an interest in the outcome of the
1. Company (usually Pty Ltd or just Limited or Pty) application. Failure to include all interested parties may result in
2. Registered Business (can also be an Incorporated cases being delayed.
Association which has a number and Inc or Incorporated Do not name witnesses as other interested parties.
in its name)
3. Sole Trader
How do I find out the correct details of a
Information about the Hearing
Notice of Hearing Documents relating to your dispute
A copy of your application and any attached documents • Contracts, letters, invoices, statements, cheque book receipts etc
will be sent to the respondent and other relevant parties to • Diaries, reports of phone conversations, meetings and
notify them of your claim to the Civil Claims List. appointments etc
• Plans, drawings, time sheets, job cards etc
VCAT will send all relevant parties a Notice of Hearing letter. • Any other documents you feel would support your case.
This letter will state the date, time and place of the hearing.
A case involving more than $10,000 may be treated differently Photographs & VHS videos
and may require more than one hearing including a These should be supplied where:
compulsory conference and directions hearings. If that is • it will help VCAT to understand the case more clearly; or
considered necessary you will receive further information from • the goods or work are likely to change before the hearing.
VCAT at the time you are notified of the date of hearing. Agents (non-legal)
Individuals are expected to appear in person. Agents will only be
What happens at the hearing allowed in exceptional circumstances. If there are joint applicants,
The person hearing the case (the Member) may spend some VCAT must be satisfied that the person appearing has the
time seeing if the parties can agree to resolve the dispute authority of any persons not appearing. Failure to appear or not
without a full hearing. If the parties cannot agree, the Member authorise an agent may result in your claim being dismissed.
will start the hearing. Because a company is not a person, it must nominate an
Behaviour – everyone must be polite. agent to represent them at the hearing.
Evidence – parties and witnesses give their evidence under All agents must have the authority to bind all persons and
oath. Usually the applicant and the applicant’s witnesses give companies at any settlement negotiations and any decision
evidence first. The respondent and the respondent’s witnesses made or undertakings given. Make sure you choose your
will then give their evidence followed by any other parties with agent carefully. The agent should be the person who has the
sufficient interest. best personal knowledge of the issues in dispute.
Facts – the Member will limit the evidence parties and their The agent must bring a letter to the hearing that:
witnesses may give about the dispute. The Member may stop • quotes the VCAT file number (this can be found on your
Notice of Hearing letter); and
parties and witnesses from speaking about things which the
• states the name of the agent; and
parties may want to say but the Member believes will not affect
• states the occupation of the agent; and
the decision to be made. • contains a statement that the agent has sufficient knowledge
Questions – Parties will generally be able to ask questions of of the issue in dispute and is vested with sufficient authority
each other and their witnesses. The Member may also ask to bind you/the company.
questions. • is signed and dated by you (if an individual) or a company
Decision – the Member will give the parties a chance to be director (if a company).
sure they have said everything they want to say and then Failure to bring this letter will mean the agent will not be
usually make a decision. allowed to represent you.
May I use a lawyer? Can I get an adjournment?
Where the claim is for $10,000 or less, in almost all Adjournments are not often granted unless you have the
circumstances parties must present their own case. Lawyers written consent of all other parties. This written consent must
will not be allowed. be sent to VCAT prior to the hearing. An adjournment request
must have supporting documents to show why an
If more than $10,000 is in dispute, lawyers are sometimes adjournment is needed (eg a detailed medical certificate - if the
allowed to represent those involved. certificate does not provide details it may not be accepted).
How do I prepare for a hearing? If a request for an adjournment is refused, the hearing will
Always keep in mind that these are legal hearings affecting the proceed as scheduled.
rights of all parties to the application. What happens if I miss the hearing?
• you must get everything accurate Orders may be made in your absence. A re-hearing may only
• you must prepare be permitted if there is sufficient reason for any absence. An
• you only get ‘one go’ application for a re-hearing must be in the form of a Statutory
The case is decided on the evidence given at the hearing. The Declaration to VCAT, Civil Claims List within 14 days of a party
best evidence is given verbally by you and your witnesses becoming aware of a Tribunal order being made. Please
supported by original documents. You may wish to prepare a contact VCAT for a form.
written statement to read out at the hearing. What if I want to appeal?
Make sure you bring all your evidence with you to the A party may seek leave to appeal a decision to the Supreme Court
hearing. It is no good saying “I can get the evidence later” – of Victoria. If you want to appeal you should seek legal advice
you must have it with you on the day. immediately after VCAT has made an order. Time limits apply.
What do I need to bring to the hearing? Video conferencing facilities
Quotes Applications for video or telephone hearings are not easily
Get independent quotes to bring to the hearing which specify granted. All video and telephone conferences are paid for by
how much it will cost for repairs, replacement and rectification the person asking for it, unless VCAT orders otherwise.
Contact VCAT for further information.
work of your goods/and or services. Bring the original copies
of all documents to the hearing (not photocopies). Interpreters for the hearing
Witnesses If you need an interpreter to attend the hearing, you should
Verbal evidence from witnesses is much more valuable than contact VCAT who will arrange for an interpreter at no cost to
written statements or letters. any party. Using relatives and friends at the hearing is not
Other contact organisations Translating Service
If, after reading this guide, you need
further advice about applications to the
Civil Claims List, you can contact:
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Phone: 1300 55 81 81 (9pm to 5pm Monday to Friday)
113 Exhibition Street, Melbourne 3000
Counter area is open 8.30am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday
You may also wish to seek legal advice.
4 Updated February 2009