The OFT gives consumers and traders information to help them resolve marketplace disputes.
Once it has been established to us that parties cannot resolve a dispute on their own, a consumer can lodge an official complaint with us. We then use conciliation to attempt to resolve the dispute. However, under the law that governs the general marketplace, we cannot make official judgements like a court or judge. Nor can we force the trader to compensate you or rectify a problem. Only a court or tribunal can do this.
When you make a complaint with us
We assess the complaint to determine:
- the issues in dispute
- options that may help resolve it
- whether someone has broken a law that we have the power to act on
- whether another organisation could better handle the dispute. If this is the case, we refer you to the appropriate organisation
- if you do not reside in Queensland and the trader is based in a state other than Queensland you will need to lodge your complaint within the state you reside.
When we contact you
Once we receive your complaint, we aim to contact you within 10 working days to:
- confirm we received your complaint
- give you a file reference number
- get your consent to release your contact details to the trader (if necessary). If you do not want us to release your details, we may not be able to help you
- advise if another organisation could better handle the dispute. If this is the case, we refer you to the appropriate organisation.
If your complaint does lead to an investigation, we keep you informed the entire way.
How we help resolve complaints
We contact each party to try to resolve the matter.
We aim to resolve most complaints within 30 days. However, if a complaint is complex or the parties do not cooperate, it takes longer.
If the complaint is not resolved
Important: If we cannot help you resolve the dispute to your satisfaction, we suggest alternatives as only the courts can compel parties in a dispute to take a course of action. Alternative options include taking the complaint to a tribunal or court, or getting your own legal advice.
When the law has been broken
If the law appears to have been broken and we can legally enforce it (for example, under certain sections of the Fair Trading (Australian Consumer Law) Amendment Act 2010 or the Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act 2000, we will investigate the breach.
When we investigate a serious complaint, we aim to prevent it happening again. Fighting for a person´s compensation is an important but secondary issue.
When a trader has broken the law, we can take action in several ways. We can:
- notify the trader and seek their cooperation to fix the problem
- get the trader to follow the law in the future
- formally warn the trader
- publicly warn consumers not to deal with the trader
- fine the trader
- take the trader to court to seek a penalty and in certain circumstances seek an order for compensation
- seek a court order to ban the trader from operating
The action we decide to take depends on several factors. We may consider:
- the intention behind the breach, such as whether we believe it was deliberate or unintentional
- whether the trader tried to fix the problem before we intervened
- the number of consumers affected
- how long the breach had been going on
- whether the trader had committed the breach before.
Every investigation is different and this information is provided as general advice only.
If a complaint lodged with us develops into an investigation, your case officer will keep you informed along the way.
Our investigators operate under the Office of Fair Trading Compliance and Enforcement Policy and Standards (PDF, 127KB). The framework provides the general policy and standards on which we base our compliance business. A key function of the framework is that it provides important operational and administrative direction and guidance to investigators during the conduct of investigations and the taking of subsequent enforcement actions.
If you are resident in Queensland and have a problem with a product or service you purchased in another state or territory of Australia you can discuss it with us and, if we believe the trader has acted inappropriately, you can lodge a complaint with us.We will follow our normal complaint handling processes and endeavour to conciliate with the trader to resolve the complaint.
If we are unable to conciliate the matter for you and depending on the significance of the dispute we may contact the fair trading agency in the state or territory where the transaction took place for assistance and any further information they may have. If the complaint is then transferred to that agency for conciliation, you and the trader will be notified.
Sharing your information with other government agencies
We participate in ACLink, a secure, information-sharing system between fair trading agencies in Australian and New Zealand state, territory and federal governments. The ACLink agreement makes it is easier for us to track interstate consumer fraud and travelling traders.
By lodging a complaint with us, you agree to share your information with these other fair trading organisations. We manage your information and share confidentially only between us.
Last reviewed 15/04/2013