Resolving Consumer Disputes: Out of the Courts and into Private Industry

Anita Stuhmcke


In the last decade in Australia private dispute resolution schemes have come to play an increasingly central role in resolving consumer disputes with private industry. Indeed, the increase in consumer use of private dispute resolution schemes since 1990 has been described as «exponential» (Ben Slade & Christian Mikula, «How to use industry based consumer dispute resolution schemes…and why», NSW Law Society Journal, February 1998, at 58). For example, in 1997 alone it was estimated that more than 130 000 consumers relied upon these schemes to resolve disputes, 4 years later in 2001 just two private dispute resolution schemes were responsible for resolving that same number of complaints (the Australian Banking Industry Ombudsman and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman as per their Annual Reports). There is no doubt that the exponential growth in consumer usage of such schemes will continue given the Federal and State government’s commitment to privatizing dispute resolution, through «…providing alternatives to the Courts, and to providing faster, cheaper, and simpler access to justice» (Media release, Commonwealth Attorney General, 13 June 2001, ‘Standards for Alternative Dispute Resolution Launched’).

Resolving Consumer Disputes- Out of the Courts and into Private Industry

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