In this section
START OF Publications and resources
START OF Legal information guides
END OF Legal information guides
END OF Publications and resources
Print version(PDF, 2MB)
Order publication online
QCAT has recently updated its forms, and we are currently reviewing our legal information guides and online content, including sample QCAT forms. You can find the new QCAT forms on their website
This guide is intended to provide you with information only. If you have a legal problem, you should get legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information provided is accurate as at March 2022 and does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions.
We are committed to providing accessible services to Queenslanders from all culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. If you would like this publication explained in your language, please telephone the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50 to speak to an interpreter. Ask them to connect you to Legal Aid Queensland. This is a free service.
This guide provides general information about how to resolve a dispute with a trader involving an amount of $25,000 or less.
The consumer-trader dispute claim procedures provide a quick and affordable way to help you collect what you are owed. You can do it yourself, without using a lawyer. This guide tells you:
If your dispute relates to purchasing a new or used warranted vehicle from a licenced motor dealer and the vehicle if defective, then you may be able to claim up to $100,000 in compensation. Get legal advice.
Consumer and trader disputes are disputes against another person, trader or company resulting from a contract for the supply of goods and services up to $25,000.
Use the consumer and trader dispute section of this guide if:
The QCAT has other processes for some of these claims. For more information visit their website www.qcat.qld.gov.au or call 1300 753 228.
It can sometimes be difficult to know whether your claim is a consumer and trader dispute. If you are unsure get legal advice from:
A consumer is someone who buys or hires goods or services for less than $100,000, or someone who buys or hires goods or services for more than $100,000 that are ordinarily for personal, domestic or household use. Also, someone who buys a motor vehicle for use on public roads is a consumer, even if the vehicle is being bought for a commercial purpose and even if the vehicle is worth more than $100,000.
A person is not a consumer if they buy or hire goods to use them up or transform them to produce or manufacture other goods, or to re-supply them to third parties. For example, a wedding photographer who buys a camera to take photos of wedding ceremonies is still a consumer, even though the transaction has a commercial purpose. However, if the same photographer buys canvases to print photos for customers, they will not be considered a consumer, because they are buying those goods with the plan to re-supply them.
Note that if you buy goods (including a car) from a private seller, including on Gumtree or Facebook marketplace or at a garage sale, you are not a consumer, and you cannot apply to QCAT to start a consumer-trader dispute. Get legal advice.
Typical consumer goods include:
Typical consumer services include:
A trader is a person who runs a business supplying people with goods or services. Most professionals, like dentists, valuers, town planning consultants, doctors and lawyers are not considered to be traders so you cannot take action against them in the QCAT.
If your claim is about building work it will usually be dealt with by other procedures in the QCAT which are not covered in this guide.
A contract is an agreement reached between two or more people. When you offer to buy something from a trader and they accept your offer you have formed a legally binding contract.
If you’re not sure whether there was a contract between you and the trader, you should get legal advice.
There is a time limit. Usually you have six years to make a claim. Talk to a lawyer to find out the time limit to your situation.
The law protects consumers when they buy goods by implying certain basic warranties. This means the goods or services you buy must:
The trader can provide you with extra warranties, but by the law the goods already have these basic implied warranties.
Second hand goods may not have to meet the same standards as new goods—it depends how they were sold.
If an implied warranty has been breached you are legally entitled to a refund (even if there is a sign saying ‘no refund’).
For example, you are entitled to a refund if the goods:
Yes. There are steps you can take to resolve your dispute without going to the QCAT.
You can try to resolve the dispute directly with the trader by calling them or visiting the store where you bought the goods or services.
Before you contact the trader to discuss the dispute you should:
When you talk to the trader you should:
You can follow up your call with a letter outlining your conversation and explaining anything you have agreed to.
You can write a letter to the trader telling them you have a problem with the service or goods you received and stating what you want done to fix the problem. Keep a copy of the letter for your records.
Sample letter(PDF, 65KB)
It is important to write your letter to the correct trading identity. The correct trading name should be on the tax invoice the trader gave you when you paid them. You can also look up the business name and Australian Business Number (ABN) on the internet by searching the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s (ASIC) Organisation and Business Names database at www.asic.gov.au
If the trader is an individual or a firm using a business name, you need to look up the trading name to find the correct address and all the business owners’ names. You can access this information by searching the ASIC’s Organisations and Business Names database—www.asic.gov.au. You can search some information for free, while other more detailed information is available for a fee.
If the trader is an individual and doesn’t have a business name, write your letter to the individual, using their full name and street address.
If the trader is a company, you need to find out the full company name, its company number and its registered address.
You can get these details by doing a company extract search at an ASIC service centre. These searches are normally done by an information broker. To find an information broker or your nearest ASIC service centre go to www.asic.gov.au or call 1300 300 630. The website also has information about the latest search fees.
Some traders have a complaints process you can use to have your complaint assessed by someone in the company.
Many are part of industry schemes that can resolve disputes.
You can invite the trader to attend mediation to try and resolve the dispute without legal action. The Queensland Government provides a free mediation service through Dispute Resolution Centres throughout Queensland. For more information visit www.justice.qld.gov.au.
If you can’t resolve your dispute with a trader through negotiation or mediation, you can make an application to the QCAT.
To make an application for a consumer and trader dispute to the QCAT you must submit a QCAT Form 1 – Application for minor civil dispute – consumer/trader dispute; property damage caused by a motor vehicle.
These forms are available from the QCAT registry in Brisbane, your local Magistrates Court or you can download it from the QCAT website www.qcat.qld.gov.au/forms
Type your answers or print neatly in black or blue pen. Make copies of the completed form.
If you are claiming against a motor dealer for selling you a car that is defective or that fails to comply with the Australian Consumer Law, or where the dealer has failed to honour a statutory or consumer warranty, you would normally file a Form 59 – Application – Motor Vehicle Dispute rather than an Application for minor civil dispute – consumer/trader dispute; property damage caused by a motor vehicle. This is because there are QCAT members who specialise in motor vehicle disputes and also because the maximum amount of such a claim is $100,000, as opposed to $25,000 for a normal consumer-trader claim. Apart from those differences, the process is largely the same.
You will need one copy for the tribunal, one copy for you and one copy for each respondent (the person or company you are making an application against). Photocopies are acceptable, but you must sign the form before you copy it.
Where there is a space on the form for the orders you are seeking, state your claim and the amount you are claiming in one or two sentences.
Where there is a space to state your reasons for seeking those orders, explain your demand fully and simply. Do not make emotional remarks, but rather present the facts about who did what, where and when. Make sure you explain clearly what the respondent agreed to and what they failed to do as well as how you arrived at the amount of the claim. You can provide further details in the attachment. Sign each sheet of paper at the bottom.
If the respondent is an individual, you name the respondent and their address in your application.
If the respondent is a business, then in your application you need to list all the business owners’ names “trading as” the business’s trading name.
For example, if you are making a claim against plumber Jo Bloggs whose business trades as Bloggies Plumbing, in the respondents section of your claim form you would write Jo Bloggs “trading as” Bloggies Plumbing.
If the respondent is a company, on your application you name as the respondent the company name and ABN and the registered company address.
If you are claiming against a party with a registered business name, you must get a copy of the Current Business Name Extract from ASIC, and for a company, the Current Company Extract. You should include a copy of this document when filling your paperwork in. For more information, see A guide to naming and identifying parties in QCAT proceedings at www.qcat.qld.gov.au
Make sure your claim contains all the necessary details but is easy to understand. If there is not enough room on the form to write all the details, attach a separate sheet marked in the top centre with ‘Attachment A’ and write ‘see attachment A’ under “the reason I am seeking orders from the tribunal” section on the form.
Make sure you mark an ‘X’ in the bracket on the claim form to show whether you are seeking payment, relief from payment, return of goods or work to be redone. Sign and date the form and any extra sheets of paper you have included.
If you or your witnesses cannot attend the QCAT on certain dates, give a list of those dates to the tribunal when you lodge your application.
If you are in Brisbane you may lodge your form in the Brisbane registry at:
Level 9, BOQ Centre, 259 Queen Street, Brisbane Qld 4000
If you are outside of Brisbane, you may lodge your form with your local Magistrates Court. To find your nearest Magistrates Court, look under “Justice and Attorney-General” in the phone book or visit www.courts.qld.gov.au
Give or send the original and copies of the form including any attachments to the QCAT registry. Pay the tribunal’s application fee. The registry staff will stamp your forms and give them a number. A scale of fees is available on the QCAT website or by phoning the QCAT registry on 1300 753 228.
The tribunal will give you back one copy of the stamped forms (called a sealed copy) for each respondent and the original for you to keep for your records.
You may be eligible for a waiver of fees. To apply for a waiver of fees you will need to complete a Form 49 – Application for waiver of fees by reason of financial hardship. You can get this form from the registry or download it from the QCAT website.
You must deliver (serve) a copy of the filed forms on the other party. You need to arrange to have one of the stamped copies of the application forms delivered to the person or business you are claiming against as soon as possible. This is called ‘serving the papers’.
You can do this yourself by post, but it is often better to pay a private process server or enforcement officer from the Magistrates Court to do it for you.
You can find a process server by:
The QCAT website contains a practice direction for service of documents which explains the procedure if you want to personally serve a document to the respondent(s) yourself. A practice direction is a guideline that provides more information on a specific issue involved with QCAT applications and proceedings.
Please note that for serving parties outside Queensland, you should include a notice under the Service and Execution of Process Act 1992. There is a SEPA Form 1 Notice for minor civil disputes available on the QCAT website that you can print off and attach to the front of your documents before they are served on the other party.
Check the application fee with the QCAT registry or online at the QCAT website www.qcat.qld.gov.au
If you win your case the tribunal can order that you be reimbursed for the cost of:
In some instances the tribunal can make an order about the legal costs of a lawyer. Generally you need permission from the tribunal to have a lawyer or other person represent you and orders permitting representation are only made in a limited number of circumstances.
The respondent might not agree with your case and decide to argue their side of the story.
They may choose to lodge a ‘counter application’ at the QCAT registry or their nearest Magistrates Court.
To do this they will need to prepare and lodge a Form 8 – Minor civil dispute – counter-application.
In a counter application, the other party outlines facts which try to disprove the original application and sets out their claim against you. For example, you stated that “the contract is a written document dated 1 July 2016”, the other party may say “I deny that the contract was a written document dated 1 July 2016 because the copy of the contract is signed and dated 1 July 2015”.
Even after you have lodged an application, it is never too late to reach agreement. Reaching agreement may save both sides time, money and inconvenience.
In most cases, if your application involves an amount of $1500 or less, your matter will proceed directly to a hearing.
If your application involves an amount of more than $1500, both parties (you and the respondent) will then receive a notice to attend mediation. The notice includes the date, time and location of mediation. The aim of mediation is to get all parties to reach an agreement.
If your matter isn’t settled at mediation then it will proceed to a hearing.
If you do settle the matter, your mediator will help you to let the tribunal know and confirm the terms of the agreement in writing.
After you have lodged your application you will receive a notice to attend mediation. The aim of the mediation is to find a solution to the dispute without proceeding to a hearing.
You need to bring every document, invoice, receipt, quotation or other piece of evidence that you are relying on and give them to the mediator at the mediation.
Make sure that you are organised and have evidence to support the main points of your argument.
Read the application and any documents attached to it.
It is a good idea to come to the mediation prepared to listen to the other party and to negotiate an agreement.
If you want to participate by phone, contact the number provided on the notice to attend mediation as soon as possible.
Ensure you arrive at least 15 minutes before the start time outlined in the notice of mediation. The other party will be there too.
Find your name or case number on the electronic listing board or list displayed in the registry. Go to the room which has been set aside for your case.
You will be invited into the room once the mediator, the person responsible for conducting the mediation, is ready. The mediation may be conducted by a QCAT mediator or a mediator from the Dispute Resolution Centre (established by the Queensland Government to provide a free, confidential, and impartial mediation service).
The mediator will introduce themself and ask everyone to introduce themselves. Generally the mediation is held in private and the length of the mediation will depend on the complexity of the matter.
The discussions during the mediation cannot be used or referred to at the hearing unless the parties agree.
Be clear and to the point. Do not interrupt the other party or the mediator.
If you do not behave appropriately, you may be removed from the mediation.
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 helps both parties in reaching an agreement.
If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator may record the terms of the agreement in writing and make the orders necessary to give effect to the agreement.
Each party will then sign the mediation agreement and receive a copy. A party may request the agreement be made an order of the tribunal.
An order is a decision made by the QCAT which requires someone to do something (for example, it may require a trader to repair a faulty product).
If you are not able to reach an agreement, the mediator will work with you to set out what issues are still in dispute and what issues have been resolved. If the parties agree, this will be given to the tribunal for the hearing.
Both parties will receive a notice of hearing which includes the time, date and location of the hearing. Be aware that a number of matters will be set for the same timeslot, and you should make sure you have enough time to attend the hearing.
The aim of the hearing is to make a final decision about your case.
It is generally in your best interest to come to the hearing if the application has been made against you. If you do not attend the hearing, the tribunal may hear and decide the matter anyway, and an order may be made against you.
At the hearing you will tell the member or adjudicator your story. Although the hearing is informal, you are expected to tell your story clearly, in proper sequence, and with enough detail to explain your case.
You need to give to the tribunal all relevant documents that help support the main points of your case. You need to bring any documents, invoices, receipts, quotations and/or other pieces of evidence that you need to prove your case, and give them to the QCAT member or adjudicator at the hearing. You should make two copies of any documents you intend to give to the tribunal and have a copy for yourself and one for the other party.
The QCAT member or adjudicator makes a decision by listening to the facts and looking at the evidence. Knowing the difference between facts and evidence will help you present your case clearly.
It may help to take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side, write the facts you want to tell the adjudicator. On the right side write the evidence you will use to support your facts.
Purchased Missini couch (model number 321) on 6 November 2021 for $1200.
Copy of receipt for couch.
The couch is faulty and unusable. The inner springs underneath one half of the couch are broken and two poke out through the foam and cover. The right front corner of the couch, which is made of timber, is chipped.
Photographs showing broken springs, protruding springs, and chipped corner of couch.
Evidence can be written (in the form of sworn statements called affidavits) or verbal (when you or your witnesses give statements in the witness box).
Your own evidence, in your own words, is always helpful to your case.
You can ask relevant witnesses who can support your case, to attend the hearing. If they are reluctant, you can apply to the tribunal to compel them to attend by serving a Form 38 – Application for notice requiring witness to attend or produce document or thing, which is a notice from the tribunal demanding they attend the hearing or produce documents that could be used as evidence. A witness who fails to attend as ordered can be fined or jailed.
If your witness is reluctant, and forced to attend the hearing through the Notice to attend, this action may anger them and they may not give helpful evidence. So weigh this up carefully before you initiate a notice.
Only the QCAT can order a person to attend a hearing or to produce documents by issuing an attendance notice. The QCAT may charge a fee for this service. If a person is willing to attend or produce a document you do not need to apply to the QCAT.
The witness is not required to attend unless you give them sufficient money to pay their costs of attending, for example money to cover their reasonable transport costs.
It can help to practise what you want to say in front of family and friends. Have your documents in order so that when you mention one it is ready to show at the right time. If you mention an important fact that a witness can support, say that you have a witness who can talk about this matter later. Have any evidence or photographs labelled and ready to show at the right time.
Listen to what your friends say. If your story is too long, cut out unnecessary details. If listeners cannot understand a point, put in details to make it clear.
Refer to the judge as “Your Honour”
“Yes, your Honour”
Refer to the member as “Senior Member”
“Yes, Senior Member”
Member (including ordinary members and judicial members)
Refer to the member as “Member” followed by their surname
“Yes, Member Smith”
Refer to the Adjudicator as “Mr/Ms/Mrs”
“Yes, Mr Jones”
Justices of the Peace
Refer to the Justices of the Peace as “Mr/Ms/Mrs”
Source: QCAT Practice Direction No 1 of 2014
Before you tell the member or adjudicator your side of the story you will be asked to swear an oath or affirm (promise) to tell the truth. It is a crime to give false evidence before the tribunal.
You should make every attempt to attend the hearing date and time scheduled by the tribunal. If circumstances arise that prevent you from attending the hearing before the scheduled hearing date, advise the tribunal by fax or in writing as soon as possible. The respondent can also take this action. If you have a sound reason the tribunal may adjourn the hearing. A sound reason would have to be something like a medical emergency where circumstances were beyond your control.
If the hearing has already taken place, ask the tribunal for a Form 43 – Application for reopening, correction, renewal or amendment.
After hearing everyone’s evidence, the member or adjudicator will make a decision. They might:
After the member or adjudicator has made a decision, they will make an order that you and the respondent must follow.
If the tribunal orders the respondent to pay the debt (in whole or in part) but they do not follow the order, you can enforce the order in the Magistrates Court.
You need to lodge in the Magistrates Court a copy of the decision that has been made by the QCAT and an affidavit about the amount still owing. If any money has already been paid off the amount owing under the judgment, you will need to tell the court about that in the affidavit.
Once you have filed these documents in the Magistrates Court the decision is taken to be an order of the Magistrates Court and can be enforced in the same way as an order of the Magistrates Court.
You will need to get legal advice about enforcement.
Before you can appeal a civil dispute decision of the QCAT you must ask for permission from the QCAT’s internal appeal tribunal to appeal the decision. To ask for permission you will need to submit a Form 39 – Application for leave to appeal or appeal. You can get a copy of this form from the QCAT registry or you can download it from the QCAT website. A fee may apply for this application.
You should get legal advice before appealing any decision.
Sample 1 Application for minor civil dispute – consumer/trader dispute; property damage caused by a motor vehicle(PDF, 689KB)
Sample 2 Minor civil dispute – counter-application(PDF, 565KB)
We have described these words as we use them in this guide. If you are still not sure what a certain term means, ask your lawyer to explain it to you.
Adjudicator — a decision maker of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
Affidavit — a statement sworn under oath in the presence of a commissioner of declarations, justice of the peace or a lawyer.
Affirm (affirmation) — a spoken declaration where you promise to tell the truth when giving information or evidence to the tribunal or writing it in an affidavit. You can make an affirmation if you do not want to swear an oath on a Bible or other sacred book.
Applicant — a person who makes an application to the tribunal.
Consumer — a person who buys or hires goods or services and does not use them for business purposes.
Contract — an agreement between two people, which the law recognises as legally binding.
Counter application — a response to the application made by the respondent.
Dispute resolution — a procedure designed to resolve disputes between people. It usually involves people working out their difference in a non-court setting with an independent mediator helping them to come to an agreement.
Evidence — the proof needed to support your side of the story. Evidence is usually given verbally in the tribunal.
Filing documents — see Lodging documents.
Hearing — where evidence is given to the tribunal from all people involved in a case and a decision is made.
Implied warranty — a warranty that is automatically part of a contract even though there is no specific mention of it in the contract.
Justice of the peace — a person recognised by law who helps with the legal process by witnessing documents, issuing search warrants and other duties. This is the person you must ask to witness you signing your affidavit.
Legal costs — the costs involved in taking a case to the tribunal, such as the costs of lawyers and the cost of filing documents with the tribunal.
Lodging documents — the process where documents are received and accepted by the tribunal. The person lodging the documents may need to pay an application fee. Usually the tribunal will stamp its seal on the filed document.
Magistrate — the name for the decision maker in the Magistrates Court. In civil proceedings like this one, they decide who is responsible for the damages. You call the magistrate ‘Your Honour’.
Magistrates Court — the court that deals with less serious offences. It is where criminal proceedings start before moving to higher courts. The Magistrates Court also deals with civil claims up to $150,000.
Mediation — a dispute resolution process run by an independent third person, who helps people to reach agreement through the process of discussion and negotiation, without entering into the content of the dispute.
Member — a decision maker of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
Oath — ‘taking the oath’ means swearing on the Bible that you will tell or have told the truth. If you do not believe in the Bible, you can affirm that the content of the affidavit is true.
Order — an order is made by the tribunal requiring a person to do something (for example, repay a debt).
Party — a person involved in the dispute, eg the applicant (you) and the respondent.
Process server — a person who delivers or ‘serves’ tribunal documents by handing them to the person concerned.
Rehearing — a second hearing for the same matter.
Respondent — the person or business you have a claim is against.
Served — the process where a person is presented with official tribunal documents.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) — a tribunal dealing with disputes of $25,000 or less between consumers and traders, or traders and traders, motor vehicle property damage claims, tenancy disputes and disputes under the Manufactured Homes (Residential Parks) Act.
Trader — a person, or business entity, who carries on a business of supplying goods or services and is not regarded as a professional (for example, doctors, dentists and lawyers are professionals).
Witness — a person who saw or heard something about your case and is called to give this evidence before the tribunal.
Last updated 28 June 2022