Consumer Claims in Northern Territory
Updated on Nov 03, 2023 • 4 min read • 174 views • Copy Link
Consumer Claims in Northern Territory
In the NT, disputes between traders and consumers can be dealt with by Consumer Affairs or through the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT). This page deals with consumer claims in the NT.
Kinds of consumer claims
Under the Australian Consumer Law, traders are subject to a number of restrictions which are designed to protect consumers from being unfairly treated. For example, traders must not engage in certain unfair practices such as:
- making false or misleading representations to a consumer
- harassing or coercing a consumer
- acting unconscionably towards a consumer, or
- acting in a misleading or deceptive manner.
Some of these activities are offences.
The Australian Consumer Law also gives consumers certain guarantees. For example, there is a guarantee that the goods will be of an acceptable quality and fit for the purpose for which they were advertised.
A consumer is also entitled to certain rights in relation to being granted a refund or replacement when a product is faulty.
Disputes in relation to motor vehicles are also common – for example, if a car is put in for a service and the owner gets hit with a hefty bill for repairs that they did not agree to, the repairer may have made an ‘unsolicited supply’.
NT Consumer Affairs was established under the Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Act 1990, which aims to promote responsible business conduct and to protect consumers’ interests. Its main functions are dealing with the purchase of goods and services, residential tenancies and residential building disputes. When disputes arise between traders and consumers, Consumer Affairs can assist by providing advice on how to resolve the dispute or by providing an alternative dispute resolution process.
A party may apply for conciliation through Consumer Affairs by completing a Consumer Conciliation Request after they have made every effort to resolve the dispute directly with the trader. When requesting conciliation from Consumer Affairs, a person must provide the following information:
- Proof of purchase
- Copies of any correspondence with the trader
- Photos of the issues (if applicable)
- If the purchase was made online, a copy of the page where the goods are listed
- If the goods were purchased from a catalogue, a copy of the page where they were listed
- If a written contact was involved, a copy of the terms and conditions
If conciliation is not successful at resolving the dispute, an application can be made to NTCAT or to the Local Court depending on the amount of money in dispute.
Consumer complaints for disputes involving less than $25,000 are heard by the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. When a complaint is lodged with NTCAT, parties must attend a conference, which is usually conducted by a tribunal member. The conference aims to resolve the dispute if possible and make orders giving effect to any settlement that is reached.
If a matter does not settle at conference, it will proceed to a direction hearing and then to a final hearing. At the hearing, each party will have the opportunity to present its case and make submissions.
The tribunal will make a decision within 28 days of the hearing.
A decision of NTCAT can be appealed internally or to the Supreme Court.
If a consumer claim involves more than $25,000 but less than $250,000, a claim can be brought in the Local Court under its normal jurisdiction and rules. The court may require parties to attend a mediation in an attempt to resolve the dispute. If the matter cannot be resolved at mediation, it will proceed to a hearing.
A consumer claim for more than $250,000 must be made in the Supreme Court.
Some kinds of consumer claims in the NT are dealt with by specialist Commonwealth or NT tribunals. For example, complaints relating to food labelling can be made to the Department of Health and Families and disputes relating to product safety and scams can be made to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Complaints about tourism services can be made to the NT Tourism Commissioner.
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