If you are a petroleum retailer and have a dispute with a wholesaler,
• you can call the DRA by making a free call to 1800 476 706 to discuss your complaint, or
• complete the On-Line Enquiry to lodge your request for information or notify the DRA of a dispute.
If a dispute arises in relation to a wholesale supplier’s failure to supply a declared petroleum product (section 43):
1. The customer must send the supplier a written Notice of Dispute setting out:
(a) the nature of the dispute;
(b) what outcome the complainant wants;
(c) what action the complainant considers will settle the dispute.
2. If the parties are unable to negotiate a resolution between themselves, the customer notifies the DRA by lodging a Request for Assistance, of:
(a) the nature of the complaint
(b) the names of the parties
(c) the expected effect on the customer of the conduct
and provides the DRA with evidence to support its complaint.
3. The DRA can ask the wholesale supplier to provide a copy of the wholesaler supplier’s records.
The wholesale supplier must comply within 6 hours of that request.
4. The DRA may decide to make a non-binding determination about the dispute.
While not binding, non-compliance would be referred to in the DRA’s published Annual Report.
If a dispute arises in relation to a other than a failure to supply a declared petroleum product (section 44):
1. Parties must attempt to agree about how to resolve the dispute,
unless the DRA is satisfied that there is no reason to attempt negotiation.
2. The parties must notify the DRA if they cannot agree on resolving or referring the matter,
The DRA must appoint a person to provide mediation or other assistance, within 7 days of notification.
3. The mediator (or person providing other assistance) decides the time and place in Australia, for providing mediation or other assistance.
4. The parties must attend and try to resolve the dispute in good faith,
or be represented by a person who has authority to enter an agreement to settle the dispute on their behalf.
6. Within 28 days after being appointed, the mediator or other person appointed
must notify the DRA of the arrangements made for providing mediation or other assistance.
7. If the mediator, or other person appointed thinks that the matters in dispute may apply more generally,
they may attempt to reach a general resolution to those matters, including by:
(a) asking the supplier to raise the matters with its dealer council (i.e. a body made up of a supplier and a representative body of retailers with whom the supplier has fuel re-selling agreements, or
(b) dealing with other disputes which have common features with the matter for which the person is appointed.
8. if the dispute has not been resolved 30 days after the start of arrangements to resolve the dispute,
the parties are not required to keep using the mediator or person appointed to assist them.
Who is the Mediator?
A mediator is an independent third party, who will work with the parties to try and resolve their dispute.
Mediators do not give legal advice or make decisions like a judge to decide the outcome, instead they assist the parties to come together and negotiate an outcome that is acceptable to all of them.
They are usually people with petroleum industry experience or lawyers who have been trained and accredited under the National Mediator Accreditation standards and have years of practical experience in assisting people resolve their disputes collaboratively.
Advantages of Mediation
The mediation process is informal and is like a meeting around a table.
• where everyone can have their say;
• is cost-effective and much cheaper and quicker than the courts;
• leads to results that meet the parties’ real needs;
• allows a skilled facilitator to work with the parties to manage emotion and the interchange of information;
• is confidential (to the extent permitted by law) so parties can expect that none of the material prepared for the mediation or exchanged in the mediation can be used in later proceedings if the mediation is ultimately unsuccessful;
• statements made by parties while trying to resolve their dispute under the scheme are not admissible as evidence in a criminal proceeding or proceeding for the imposition of a penalty, the only exception to this is for a proceeding in respect of the falsity of the statement;
• if agreement is reached, at the end of the mediation, the terms of the agreement will be recorded in a formal record between the parties.
If the dispute remains unresolved after the mediation or other assistance, the DRA may make a non-binding determination about the dispute (section 46).
Before making a non-binding determination, the DRA may allow each party to give, within a specified period, information about:
(a) the contractual arrangements between the parties;
(b) how the party has complied with the code;
(c) what action the party has taken towards resolving the dispute;
(d) how the dispute could be resolved;
(e) if a non-binding determination was made, how much time the party would require to give effect to the determination;
(f) any other matters the party considers relevant.
While such a determination is not binding, non-compliance would be referred to in reports of the DRA including the DRA’s published Annual Report.What is the cost of the dispute resolution scheme?
The mediator charges a fee for administering the mediation to a maximum of 3 hours, which is payable even if the mediation does not proceed, and for conducting the mediation, of up to $330 (inclusive of GST) per hour. The parties share the mediator’s fees and expenses (such as room hire) equally between them, unless they otherwise agree. The parties have to pay their own costs of attending meditation or other assistance provided.