If you can't agree a solution with a seller or supplier, options include mediation, district court or disputes.
If making a complaint hasn't resolved your issue, there are other options to help get the dispute resolved.
Your options include:
- disputes bodies or schemes, eg for financial services or car dealers
- Disputes Tribunal or district court.
You can be referred to mediation by a disputes body, or you can organise it and pay yourself — the only condition is that both parties must agree to take part.
In mediation, you meet with the other party and an impartial, trained mediator. The mediator works with you both to help you hear each other out and come to an agreement — they don't give advice or make rulings.
How to get started
If your dispute relates to telecommunications services, financial services or a rental property, it’s best to go through the relevant disputes body.
If your dispute is with a car dealer who is a member of the Motor Trade Association (MTA), contact the MTA about their mediation service. If mediation doesn't work, you can make a claim to the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal.
For other types of disputes, these organisations can help you find a mediator or arbitrator:
Disputes bodies or schemes
Each has their own process for solving issues. Some offer mediation first to see if you and the business can agree on how to solve the issue. Others may go straight to a hearing where they will make a formal decision.
Decisions are based on the facts and rights of both parties — both the consumer and the business.
There are disputes bodies for different industries in New Zealand. Examples include:
- Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal
- Real Estate Authority
- Telecommunication Dispute Resolution
- Privacy Commissioner
- Banking Ombudsman.
How to get started
Before you begin a disputes process with any of these bodies, contact them to check:
- what their process is
- if you'll pay any fees
- what you can do if you're not happy with any outcome.
Some disputes bodies can only deal with complaints about service providers who are members of their scheme.
Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal(external link) — Ministry of Justice
You can use the Disputes Tribunal as an informal, inexpensive, quick forum to resolve claims involving products, services or property up to $30,000.
There no lawyers or judges. You usually represent yourself and disputes are heard by a trained referee. The referee works with both sides to try to reach an agreement. If they can't agree, the referee can make a binding decision.
The Disputes Tribunal can deal with a wide range of disputes including:
- whether work has been done properly or the correct amount charged
- faulty products
- loss caused by misleading advertising and false statements in sales
- hire purchase agreements (now called credit sales)
- disputes involving contracts or business agreements.
The Tribunal can’t deal with disputes relating to:
- debt collection where there is no dispute about the debt
- family law disputes eg care arrangements or child support
- welfare benefits or ACC payments
- wills, rates or taxes
- residential tenancy or employment matters.
When deciding on a dispute a referee can make an order:
- for payment to compensate for loss or damage
- to vary or cancel an agreement, contract or quote
- for repairs, refunds or returns
- that money is not owed
- that a claim should be dismissed, or struck out because it is outside the Tribunal’s jurisdiction
- that a supplier will take over responsibility to pay for products that were bought with finance arranged by the supplier but which have been rejected under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
How to get started
You usually need to file a claim within six years of the event that caused the dispute. There's a fee to make a claim. The latest fees are available on the Disputes Tribunal website.
It will take at least six weeks for your claim to be heard in a Disputes Tribunal.
How to make a claim(external link) — Disputes Tribunal
Forms and fees(external link) — Disputes Tribunal
Either party can apply to the Disputes Tribunal for a rehearing within 28 days of the order or agreed settlement if they believe:
- something prevented the proper decision from being made, eg relevant information was not available or a mistake was made, or
- the referee conducted the hearing in a way that was unfair or prejudicial to their case.
A District Court Judge will decide whether or not there are grounds for an appeal.
If your claim is for more than $15,000 but less than $350,000, you can file a civil claim in the district court.
It's best to consult a lawyer before doing this. If you can't afford a lawyer, you might be able to get free or funded legal help – contact your local Community Law centre.
Legal aid(external link) — Ministry of Justice
The High Court hears civil claims that are complex or for more than $350,000.
Claims you can take to civil court(external link) — Ministry of Justice
As well as taking direct action to sort out your complaint, you may be able to report the business to:
- the Commerce Commission
- an industry regulator.
This could stop a similar thing from happening to someone else. You can report the business or trader at the same time as taking a case to a disputes body, eg Disputes Tribunal.
Report a business you think has:
- misled you
- said something that isn't true
- treated you unfairly when buying on credit or borrowing money.
Commerce Commission doesn't act on behalf of individuals and can't investigate every complaint. But their investigations do help make sure businesses are complying with the law. Your information helps them assess which consumer issues are causing greatest harm.
Make a complaint(external link) — Commerce Commission
Certain industries are regulated to make sure professionals:
- follow standards
- trade fairly
- are registered, eg in the case of builders, architects, doctors
- comply with certain laws.
We have more advice on industry regulators, eg for accountants, builders, health and disability services, in our Help by product and service section.