Please note: In-person services are available by appointment only.

How to handle a small business dispute

If you have tried to resolve a dispute yourself and the issue continues, you might like to turn to our business advisory service.

When you speak with one of our business advisers:

  • They will ask you about your dispute and provide some steps which could help you to resolve the issue quickly.
  • The information and suggestions they provide will be based on the details you share, without contacting the other party involved in your dispute.

There is no cost for our business advisory service.

If you can’t resolve the dispute by following the information provided by our business advisers, you might be asked if you would like help to negotiate with the other party involved. This is known as our dispute resolution service.

Dispute resolution service

  • Affordable and easy to access
  • Confidential service, practical solutions
  • Designed to help WA small businesses
  • Aims to finalise disputes quickly

By using our dispute resolution service, you could have the opportunity to work with the other party involved to explore solutions to the issue. This service aims to help you reach a practical agreement, so you can get back to running your business sooner.

Please note, fees may apply for elements of our dispute resolution service, such as mediation.

About our dispute resolution service

Here are some important things to know about our dispute resolution service:

  • You could try this service as a way of handling or finalising the issue without going to court.
  • Unlike a court or tribunal, we can’t force anybody involved in a dispute to negotiate, act in a certain matter or make decisions. A party can opt out at any time and the service cannot guarantee an outcome.
  • Our dispute resolution service does not provide legal advice, represent any party or become involved in legal proceedings. You are welcome to ask your legal representative or another adviser to participate.
  • This service needs both you, as the business owner, and the other party involved to be willing to participate and work cooperatively with our impartial case managers. A degree of compromise is essential in reaching a resolution, and an agreed outcome helps to avoid expensive and lengthy legal proceedings. The interests of each party will be considered to help reach a flexible agreement.

Our dispute resolution service is separate from our SBDC business advisory service and is overseen by the WA Small Business Commissioner.

About case management

If your case is referred to our dispute resolution service, you will be assigned an impartial case manager:

  • Your case manager becomes the point of contact for both sides. They are independent, impartial and do not represent either side of your dispute.
  • This person will contact both you and the other party involved in the dispute to clarify the issues and explore potential solutions.
  • They could provide general guidance, request documents to help understand the issues, or recommend that either you or the other party involved seeks further specialist advice. They do not provide legal advice.

You, as the business owner, and the other party involved will be supported to make your own decisions throughout these confidential discussions.

There is no cost for the case management service.

About mediation

If case management doesn’t resolve your dispute, your case manager might refer you to our confidential mediation service. Not all disputes are suitable for mediation.

Here’s how mediation works:

  • Mediation is a formal, structured and face-to-face negotiation process designed to help you and the other party come to an agreement.
  • It costs $125 per party per session. This option is inexpensive compared with taking the matter to court - and other costs related to this service are subsidised by the State Government.
  • Each session is guided by a professionally-accredited and independent mediator. The session relies on you and the other party being open to solutions and aiming to settle the dispute in a respectful way, which improves the chances that your business relationship will continue.

In most cases, one mediation session is enough to settle the dispute and find a solution which works for everyone. Any agreements reached are legally binding, which finalises the dispute.

Find out more about mediation.

More information

If you would like learn more about resolving a dispute, read our dispute resolution tips or contact us to discuss our dispute resolution service.

Report unfair business practice anonymously

If your experiencing unfair contract terms, or other unfair business practices such as non-payment or breach of contract, you can anonymously report the issue to the SBDC for investigation.