Escalating a complaint 

If you have a complaint (e.g. with a product or service you have paid for) and haven’t been able to resolve it by dealing directly with the other party (e.g. the retailer or service provider), you may be able escalate it to an appropriate disputes body.

Here you will find information to help you identify the appropriate disputes body for your complaint, as well as things to consider before you proceed.

What a disputes body does

The disputes body investigates your complaint or dispute and tries to resolve it by: 

  • providing mediation (so that both parties might come to an agreement) and / or
  • holding a hearing at which you may or may not have to appear, after which they will decide how the issue is to be resolved).

It’s important to note that disputes bodies aren’t consumer advocates; their job is to come to a decision which is fair based on the facts and rights of both parties, not to work on your behalf.

Finding the right disputes body

There are different disputes bodies for different types of complaints, and some disputes bodies can only deal with complaints about service providers who are members of their scheme. So it’s important to know which disputes body which is appropriate for your complaint.

If your complaint is with a financial services provider (e.g. a bank, insurance company or financial advisor), they should be able to tell you which disputes body they belong to. Otherwise, check the resources we’ve listed below.

Three resources to help you find the appropriate disputes body

1. Most disputes bodies are listed on the Complaint Line website, including some brief information about each agency and their contact details. 

2. The Consumer Protection website has a list of free disputes bodies which deal with specific complaints.

3. Your local CAB can help you:

  • consider your options, 
  • find the appropriate disputes body for your complaint, 
  • apply to the disputes body and 
  • give you a good idea of what to expect when you make your complaint.

If there isn’t a specific disputes body for your particular complaint, you may be able to apply to the Disputes Tribunal (if it’s a dispute and the value of your dispute is up to $15,000 - or $20,000 if both parties agree to it) or to the Courts.

Seven things to ask the disputes body before you proceed

1. Whether you need to have first raised a formal complaint with the other party and reached a state of deadlock - some disputes bodies can’t help until you’ve done this;

2. What, if any, fees you’ll have to pay to use the disputes body;

3. Whether you will have to attend hearings (and if so where and when they’ll be held, and whether the other party will also be present);

4. Whether you’ll be allowed to have someone else represent you and/or a support person;

5. What remedies or rulings the disputes body has the power to make;

6. How long you can expect to wait: 

  • to get a hearing 
  • for a decision or ruling to be made;

7. Whether there is an appeals process in case you’re unhappy with the outcome of the hearing.

You should also think about the likelihood of succeeding in your complaint - do you have enough evidence to support your claim?  If you’re seeking payment from the other party, are they likely (or able) to pay up if you win the case?

Appealing a decision

If you or the other party is unhappy with the decision made by the disputes body, it may be possible to appeal. Depending on the nature of your dispute, you may have to appeal to the Disputes Tribunal or go to Court.

Four things to check if you’re considering making an appeal

1. Find out on what grounds someone can appeal a decision - in some cases you can only appeal if you think the hearing was conducted in an unfair way, or if you think the referee got a point of law wrong - but not just because you think the referee made the wrong decision.

2. Check whether there’s a time limit for making an appeal – you might have just a few weeks or less.

3. Know what, if any, costs are involved

4. Find out how the appeal hearing will be conducted (will you and/or the other party need to appear at the hearing? Can you bring a support person or be represented?)