Are you unable to reach agreement on a complaint with a business?

Whether you want your money back for a broken item, poor quality work or you think you’ve been overcharged the Tribunal provides a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to resolve disputes. You can use the Tribunal to settle small claims up to $30,000.

How can the Disputes Tribunal help me solve my problem?

Anyone can make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal if they think they've not received a fair deal.

For a small fee you’ll have your issue heard and a fair outcome agreed.

It's easy to make a claim on the Disputes Tribunal website. So, act fast while it’s fresh in your mind! 

Make a claim online(external link) — Disputes Tribunal of New Zealand

A couple’s hardwood outdoor furniture set began deteriorating 3 years after purchase despite applying outdoor wood treatment occasionally. When they complained to the store, they were told that the furniture was outside of the store’s 2-year warranty but were offered a credit of 50% of the purchase price.

The Disputes Tribunal determined that under the “fit for purpose” guarantee of the Consumer Guarantees Act, the business must refund the full cost of the furniture.

What happens at a Tribunal hearing?

Once you’ve filed a complaint, you’ll be contacted by the Tribunal with a hearing date and venue. Sometimes the hearing can take place by telephone.

The hearing will be attended by you, the business and a referee provided by the Tribunal.  

A lawyer can’t represent you in the hearing and there are no judges. You can ask to bring a support person, but they are not allowed to speak during the hearing. 

If you’re under 18, have special needs, or are overseas, the Tribunal will make the hearing work for you.

The referee is an experienced legal expert who has a deep knowledge of New Zealand consumer laws. They help resolve issues rather than host a place for an argument.

The referee will:

  • provide a safe, neutral, and calm setting
  • allow each party to tell their story and listen carefully for detail
  • explain how consumer laws apply to the situation
  • help you to agree a solution.

If agreement can’t be reached, the referee will decide the case with a binding ruling and prepare a District Court Order.

Did you know?

25% of claims brought to the Disputes Tribunal settle before the hearing and 25% of cases settle on the day.

A family were unhappy with the cleanliness of the holiday apartment they had booked – finding marks on the table, unclean remotes for the TV and air conditioner, grease on the side of the oven door and table mats, dust on surfaces and what appeared to be mould around the windows. Their request to move rooms was denied by the provider and no effort was made to remedy the problem. 

The Disputes Tribunal determined that under the “acceptable quality” guarantee of the Consumer Guarantees Act, the business must refund the family.


How to prepare for a Tribunal hearing

Being well prepared for your hearing can make a big difference to the outcome. 

You can prepare for your hearing by collecting supporting documents. These could be receipts, correspondence, photographs or statements from witnesses or experts.

Write down the main things you want to say to check off in the hearing.  Consider making your case to the Tribunal in writing if you’re not a confident speaker.

Prepare for a hearing(external link) — Disputes Tribunal of New Zealand

After over $1,500 worth of dental work, Abby still had ongoing pain and she was unable to chew even soft food. After complaining to the original dentist, she eventually visited another where they were able to fix the problem and remove the pain.

The Disputes Tribunal determined that under the “reasonable care and skill” guarantee of the Consumer Guarantees Act, the original dentist must refund Abby.


What types of disputes can the Tribunal help with?

The tribunal can help with disputes about consumer issues such as:

  • work not completed as expected
  • over-charging
  • insurance claims
  • loss caused by misleading advertising and false statements in sales material
  • hire purchase agreements (now called credit sales)
  • disputes involving contracts or business agreements.
  • goods that don’t work as expected, are of poor quality or don’t fit the description at sale
  • whether a tradesperson has done work to acceptable standards.

The Disputes Tribunal can also help with other types of disputes such as:

  • damage due to car accidents
  • property damage
  • neighbour disputes
  • flatmate issues
  • business deals.

Find out if the Disputes Tribunal can help, file a claim, or read about past claims at the link below.

About the Tribunal(external link) — Disputes Tribunal of New Zealand 

Other resolutions services available

Some specialist industries in New Zealand have their own services available to settle consumer disputes. Examples include:

  • Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal
  • Real Estate Authority
  • Telecommunications Dispute Resolution
  • Privacy Commissioner
  • Banking Ombudsman