Consumer and trader disputes

Learn about consumer and trader disputes and the application process.

Consumer and trader disputes involve disputes, arising out of a contract between a consumer and a trader (which may be a person or a company) or between two traders, for the supply of goods and/or services up to and including $25,000.

(This amount is prescribed in Schedule 3 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009).

Below you can learn about when you can and cannot make a consumer and trader dispute application, how QCAT will decide a consumer and trader disputes and steps you need to consider if you are named as the respondent.

What do you need to know about Consumer and Trader Disputes?

Who is a consumer?

A consumer is a person who purchases good and services for their own use.

Goods include food, clothes, appliances and furniture.

Services include car maintenance, meals served in restaurants, or haircuts provided by a hairdresser.

Who is a trader?

A trader is a person who runs a trade or commerce business supplying goods or services to consumers.

A person supplying good and services outside of trade or commerce is not considered to be a trader.

For example, lawyers, doctors, dentists, valuers, podiatrists and town planning consultants are not considered traders.

What is a contract?

A contract is an agreement reached between two or more people. It can be made either in writing or verbally. When you offer to buy something from a trader and they accept your offer you have formed a legally binding contract.

If you are unsure about any of the above descriptions, you should seek independent legal advice about how to proceed.

A consumer and trader dispute application can be made when it involves disputes against another person, trader or company arising out of a contract for the supply of goods and services, valued up to and including $25,000 (excluding interest).

The dispute may be about:

  • an agreement (contract) you had with a trader about the supply of goods or services that you believe has been broken; or
  • an agreement (contract), you as a trader, had with another trader about supply of goods or services that you believe has been broken

A consumer and trader dispute application cannot be made if the amount exceeds QCAT's monetary limit:

QCAT cannot decide disputes involving claims worth more than $25,000 (excluding interest).

If the amount sought is more than $25,000, the applicant may choose to reduce the claim to $25,000 to enable it to be to lodged with QCAT.

Disputes involving amounts worth more than $25,000 are heard by other courts. Claims for amounts:

The applicant should seek independent legal advice about how to proceed if QCAT is not the appropriate jurisdiction.

A consumer and trader dispute application also cannot be made if:

The Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (Qld) imposes limitation periods in Queensland to commence a civil proceeding of within 6 years of the incident happening.

Please ensure you confirm your dispute falls within the relevant time limit before making an application to QCAT.

If your dispute involves building work, you should consider contacting the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC). The QBCC provides information and advice to ensure the maintenance of proper building standards and remedies for defective building work.

You may also wish to consider seeking legal advice to determine if your matter should be lodged as a consumer and trader dispute or alternatively as a building dispute.

Lodging an application in the incorrect jurisdiction may result in your case being dismissed.

If your dispute relates to the purchase of a new or used motor vehicle from a licensed motor dealer, QCAT can consider this.

QCAT can hear motor vehicle disputes up to $100,000 against a motor dealer for the following:

QCAT cannot hear disputes regarding private sales of motor vehicles between two parties. The purchase must be from a licensed motor dealer.

You can learn more about making a motor vehicle dispute application and the process here.

Lodging an application in the incorrect jurisdiction may result in your case being dismissed.

What is the consumer and trader dispute process?

Before you begin the consumer and trader dispute process, it is important that the applicant and respondent understand their obligations and how a case is progressed by QCAT. This includes understanding how QCAT considers a dispute and orders QCAT can make in a consumer and trader dispute case.

QCAT considers consumer and trader dispute applications in two ways:

  • if your claim amount is less than $1,500, your matter will be listed for a hearing, without the need for mediation
  • if your claim amount is greater than $1,500, your matter will be listed for a mediation, and if not resolved, listed for a hearing

Mediation is a timely dispute resolution service in which a mediator assists parties to discuss their differences and find a solution that suits all parties to the dispute.

The mediator acts as an independent third party and guides the participants through a structured mediation process. The mediator is not there to make a decision about who is right or wrong, but rather, assists both parties in reaching an agreement.

If the parties do reach an agreement, the mediator may record the terms of the agreement in writing and each party will then sign the mediation agreement and receive a copy.

The parties may request that the agreement be made an order of QCAT.

If no agreement is reached at mediation, the matter will be set down for hearing on a different day.

In consumer and trader disputes you can ask QCAT to make orders relating to the following:

  • a payment of money to you
  • a refund of money to you
  • relief from payment of money
  • return of goods
  • rectification of work
  • costs of transporting a motor vehicle to the respondent if relevant to the claim
  • payment of filing fees
  • a combination of any two or more orders where the total value of the orders is not more than $25,000

When you start the application process below you will be asked to complete this section in the application form.

If you have received an application for a consumer and trader dispute and you are named as the respondent, it is important to understand the process you need to follow. You must:

  • read the above information and follow the link below to understand the QCAT process and how the case will be progressed to a final hearing; and
  • file your written submissions and any supporting documents in response to the application or, file a counter application if required

To learn more about how to file a counter application in a consumer and trader dispute, the forms you need and what happens next in the minor civil process please click here.

The time for QCAT to finalise a case may vary depending on QCAT’s workload and the number of steps to be completed by parties as required by QCAT to resolve the dispute. The current average time to consider a minor civil dispute and finalise your case can be found on our expected timeframes page.

How do I make an application about a consumer and trader dispute?

To make an application, please select your case type from the list below:

Help and further information

Queensland legislation related to consumer and trader disputes includes the:

  • Agents Financial Administration Act 2014
  • Debt Collectors (Field Agents and Collection Agents) Act 2014
  • Motor Dealers and Chattel Auctioneers Act 2014
  • Property Occupations Act 2014
  • Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009

The Acts are available on the Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel website.

You can access a range of databases which keep records of previous decisions about minor civil dispute cases. This includes previous decisions made by:

For legal advice:

* Contact the private solicitor of your choice

* Use Queensland Law Society’s Find a Solicitor service.

* Contact Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88

* Contact Community Legal Centres Queensland for details on your local community legal centre on 07 3392 0092

For assistance in legal proceedings:

Law Right Court and QCAT Services

LawRight is an independent, non-profit community based legal organisation that coordinates pro bono legal services for individuals and community groups. Parties with proceedings in QCAT may be able to obtain assistance from LawRight’s Court and Tribunal Services to self-represent or in limited circumstances, be given representation.

If you are unsure whether you are eligible for assistance from LawRight or wish to make an enquiry, contact the service via phone on 07 3564 7561, or email at, or writing to PO Box 12217, George Street QLD 4003.

To apply for help from LawRight, please complete the application form here. If you are unable to complete the online form, contact LawRight to discuss alternative arrangements

Community legal centres

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (Qld) Ltd (ATSILS) is a community-based organisation established to provide professional and culturally proficient legal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Queensland. You can access website information or contact ATSILS on(07) 3025 3888.

Community Legal Centres Queensland can help you find the nearest community legal service available to you. You can also contact them on (07) 3392 0092.

Caxton Legal Centre is an independent, non-profit community organisation providing free legal and social work advice, assistance and referrals to the general public. Please note that the Caxton Legal Centre does not provide advice about building or other business and commercial disputes.

Women's Legal Service is a community legal centre that provides free legal advice and information to women in Queensland.

Youth Advocacy Centre offers free confidential legal and welfare assistance to young people under 17 years who live in or around Brisbane. Telephone support is also provided to young people outside of Brisbane and throughout Queensland.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)’s registry is here to administer your case and provide general information. Please see below what registry staff can and cannot do to assist with your case.

Registry staff can:

* answer questions about QCAT processes

* provide information about QCAT’s different types of forms that are available for your consideration

* provide you with information and support about how to lodge an application

* refer and/or process any request to access the QCAT register of proceedings (a publicly available list of QCAT cases) or the record of proceedings (the case files themselves)

* advise on fees and allowances, and how to apply for a waiver of fees

* guide you in checking your forms are complete before lodgement (e.g. signed in the correct places)

* give you information on legal organisations that could help.

Registry staff cannot:

* provide legal advice

* advise on whether you should submit an application and whether you are filing under the correct legal area (eg minor civil dispute – consumer or trader or minor civil dispute – minor debt)

* tell you if you should lodge an appeal or a counter-application

* recommend a specific lawyer to assist you

* instruct you on how to word your application, supporting documents or what to say at a proceeding

* contact a QCAT member or adjudicator directly on your behalf

* predict likely outcomes of a case or appeal

* help you prepare your case

* advise what orders or decisions you should seek

* explain what you should do to follow QCAT directions

* recommend your next steps regarding enforcing an order or tribunal decision

* advise on exact timeframes for resolution of a case – this depends on your individual case