Dispute resolution service

Please note: While we are not currently offering in-person services, you can still access assistance by telephone or email.

We offer a dispute resolution service to assist small businesses who are in dispute with other businesses or government departments to try and reach an agreement or settlement.

The service consists of case management and mediation. It is easy to access, affordable, confidential and flexible. This allows parties in dispute the opportunity to work cooperatively to consider options and to reach practical agreements. The service generally finalises disputes quickly, allowing you to get back to running your business sooner.

Unlike a court or tribunal, we do not have powers to compel anyone to negotiate, act in a certain matter or make decisions. The service does not provide legal advice or become involved in legal proceedings. 

Parties can choose to use the service as an alternative to going to court, however, that option is always available. It is important to note that participation in the service is voluntary and therefore cannot proceed if any party to the dispute refuses to participate. Only willing participants can be assisted by our impartial case managers to establish common ground with the other party, which may resolve the dispute.

Flexible and practical agreements can result where parties cooperatively consider options with a fresh perspective and are prepared to compromise. 

The service is overseen by the WA Small Business Commissioner.

Speak to a business adviser to access the dispute resolution service

Before accessing the dispute resolution service, you will have spoken to one of our business advisers who will ask you to provide information relating to the dispute and offer practical advice that may help you to resolve the issue quickly. Advice is provided based on the information you provide to the advisor and without contact with the other party to the dispute.

If you are unable to resolve the dispute at this stage, the business adviser may then enquire if you would like to access the dispute resolution service for case management to assist you to negotiate with the other party involved in the dispute.

There is no cost for the advisory service.

Dispute resolution service case management

When your case is referred to the dispute resolution service, an impartial case manager will contact both parties involved in the dispute to clarify the issues and identify possible ways to resolve the dispute in a constructive manner. It is common for parties who access the service to have made prior attempts to resolve the dispute.

All parties are supported to make their own decisions and encouraged to act in good faith throughout these confidential discussions. Agreements to finalise the dispute are consensual and generally require compromise in consideration of the interests of both parties. The case manager is the single point of contact for all matters regarding the dispute and co-ordinates management of the case.

Case managers are independent, impartial and do not represent any party. They may provide the parties with general guidance, request documents to understand the issues, or recommend that a party seeks further specialist advice but do not provide legal advice.

The dispute resolution service is separate from the advisory service at the Small Business Development Corporation.

There is no cost for the case management service.

Mediation

If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute with the assistance of case management and it is considered suitable for mediation, the case manager may offer access to our confidential and subsidised mediation service.

Mediation offers a more structured negotiation process where parties meet on a face to face basis and an independent mediator supports them to co-operatively work together on solutions to reach a consensual agreement. Parties participate in mediation with an intention of settling the dispute and confidentiality allows the parties to discuss alternatives for resolution in an honest and frank manner.

The mediator acts as a neutral facilitator and does not make any judgement of who is right or provide legal advice. The case manager will assist the parties prepare for the mediation as they will become negotiators in their own right to resolve the dispute. Legal representatives and other advisers can also participate in the mediation.

Participating in mediation is voluntary and in most cases a mutually agreeable outcome can be achieved with one mediation session. Agreements reached are legally binding finalising the dispute.

The cost for mediation is at a reduced rate of $125 per party per session. The service is subsidised by the State government.

Find out more about mediation.

More information

If you would like to access our dispute resolution service please contact us to discuss.