Message from the Minister for Small Business. Message from the Small Business Commissioner

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2 The Small Business Commissioner is committed to helping build the best possible environment in which small business can flourish, now and in the future. Message from the Minister for Small Business Since the ground breaking legislation was passed in October 2011 for the Small Business Commissioner Act 2011, the Office of the Small Business Commissioner (OSBC) has continued to serve the small business community with consistent delivery of exceptional service and commitment. At the core of the responsibilities to the small business community, the OSBC acts as an independent statutory office responsible for facilitating the resolution of disputes between small businesses, Local and State Government bodies. The continued strong growth and outstanding achievements within this service is represented through the 84% success rate. The monetary value of the successfully resolved disputes coupled with the savings in legal costs for these small businesses cannot be underestimated. Small businesses, franchisees, retail tenants and farmers now have a voice to assist them through difficult times, disputes and compliance issues. No matter is too small or too big. With thousands of small businesses underpinning the South Australian economy it is vital we provide information, advocacy and no-cost or low-cost dispute resolution services to this important and significant community. My commitment to the small business sector is represented in the services provided through the OSBC and I stand committed to ensuring South Australia is a great place to do business. Hon Tom Koutsantonis MP Minister for Small Business Message from the Small Business Commissioner My Office assists South Australian businesses by: Providing a high quality independent Dispute Resolution service; Enforcing mandatory Industry Codes; Delivering a range of Information Services to assist small businesses; and Providing advocacy for this important sector. The key aim is to ensure a fair and competitive operating environment for South Australian small businesses. Retail and Commercial Leasing matters are a key part of our work as well as responsibilities in relation to Security of Payments in Building and Construction, Codes of Practice under the Work Health Safety Act 2012 (SA) and late payment of government debts. My Office and I are proud to serve South Australian businesses and if we can be of assistance please do not hesitate to contact us. John Chapman Small Business Commissioner

3 The South Australian Government created the Office of the Small Business Commissioner to assist businesses. The Small Business Commissioner is an independent statutory office who monitors and assists to resolve disputes involving small businesses, other businesses, landlords and Local and State Government bodies across the State. Small Business Commissioner Small Businesses need a competitive and fair business environment to grow and prosper The Small Business Commissioner and the associated office has a wide range of functions and powers and is dedicated to promoting a competitive and fair operating environment for small businesses. The Commissioner also provides information to improve the capacity of small businesses to manage their business and make informed decisions, so that disputes are less likely to occur. Access to an independent statutory office The Small Business Commissioner is independent from government. This independence is important in the resolution of disputes and especially those between State Government bodies and small businesses, as all parties can be confident their issues will be heard and dealt with fairly and objectively. New Developments Since the opening of the Office of the Small Business Commissioner in March 2012, the office has assumed: Certain responsibilities under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) which started from January 2013; Responsibilities under the Late Payments of Government Debts (Interest) Act 2013; and Responsibility for the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act In a further boost to the business sector in South Australia, the State Budget handed down in June 2013 announced funding for a new tailored service to assist small businesses. Dispute Resolution Services No-Cost or Low-Cost A key service of the OSBC is the provision of low-cost or no-cost dispute resolution services, this includes: Receiving and helping resolve disputes or issues faced by small businesses regarding unfair market practices. This may involve mediation or other dispute resolution processes between the parties involved in such issues; Assist in resolving retail tenancy and commercial disputes between small businesses and landlords or other parties; Assist in resolving franchise disputes between franchisees and franchisors or other parties; Assist in resolving other business to business disputes; and Assist in resolving disputes involving small businesses and Local and/or State Government bodies. The Office of the Small Business Commissioner does not: Provide legal advice or assistance; Provide financial advice or assistance; or Adjudicate on legal rights and obligations of the parties.

4 How Disputes are Resolved There are three key phases that the Office of the Small Business Commissioner will use to resolve a dispute. The first two phases commence with the Commissioner or his delegate at no cost and if these steps do not resolve the dispute between the parties, then external mediation can occur a low-cost. The phases are as follows: 1. Initial Assistance The Commissioner and the office staff will assess each matter. Information will be provided such as responsibilities under relevant legislation where appropriate. An officer within the Office of the Small Business Commissioner will be assigned the case. The Commissioner or his delegate will make contact with the other party or parties to request preliminary information when necessary and to seek that party s view on the matter. Some issues are resolved at this stage. There is no cost for this service. 2. Pre-Mediation If a matter has not been resolved during the initial phase, staff within the Office of the Small Business Commissioner will discuss options with each party to attempt resolution of the dispute in a timely manner. Normally this involves a meeting or discussion. Any settlement that is reached by the parties will be documented and be legally enforceable. There is no cost for this service. The majority of disputes are resolved at this stage. 3. External Mediation If the dispute cannot be resolved during the first two phases, an option will be presented to the parties to resolve the dispute by the use of an independent external mediator, drawn from the Commissioner s mediation panel. When parties agree to mediation the Commissioner will organise a suitable venue, time and date agreeable to the parties. Mediations will be confidential to the parties. Any settlement that is reached by this process will be documented and be legally enforceable as an agreement by the parties. If required an additional mediation could be arranged if desired by all parties. Parties are still able to take a matter to Court if settlement is not reached. The Commissioner has engaged an experienced panel of professional mediators to provide this service. External mediation will incur a fee of $195 per party per day for mediation services. Advocacy The Small Business Commissioner is an advocate for the South Australian small business community. Examples of advocacy may include: Representation to the Government and members of Parliament; Propose legislative changes for consideration by the Government of the day; Link with the National Small Business Commissioner s group; and Submissions to relevant Inquiries.

5 Industry Codes The Small Business Commissioner Act 2011 provides a legislative framework for the Minister for Small Business to prescribe Industry Codes of Conduct and for those Codes to be enforced by the Small Business Commissioner. Industry Codes are a proven mechanism to improve standards of conduct for how an industry will deal with a range of issues and they also aid transparency. This may include disclosure arrangements and resolution of disputes. Industry Codes are developed under the guidance of the Deputy Small Business Commissioner, Frank Zumbo. During , three Industry Codes have been passed and they include; the SA Farming Industry Dispute Resolution Code; the SA Motor Vehicle Industry Dispute Resolution Code; and the SA Newsagency Industry Dispute Resolution Code. Extensive industry consultation occurred in relation to each Industry Code of Conduct before it was prescribed. The Office, as well as the Minister for Small Business was involved in the consultation process. In addition, via the passage of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) an amendment was passed to include a mechanism for the Small Business Commissioner to act as an avenue for feedback from small businesses for new Codes of Practice under this Act. The Small Business Commissioner will consult industry and then make recommendations or provide advice or feedback to the Minister for Industrial Relations prior to the Codes being approved. Retail and Commercial Leases The Small Business Commissioner is responsible for the administration of the Retail and Commercial Leases Act 1995, which governs retail tenancy and commercial leases in South Australia. If a dispute arises between the parties to a retail tenancy or commercial lease, they can apply to the Small Business Commissioner for assistance to resolve the dispute between the parties through the alternative dispute resolution processes used by the Office. Under the Retail and Commercial Leases Act 1995, all security bonds must be lodged with the Small Business Commissioner. Bonds lodged are to be a maximum of four weeks rent and does not incur GST. Information Services The Small Business Commissioner s office will provide business operators with a range of information services that outlines businesses rights and responsibilities. The Small Business Commissioner s website provides extensive information on resolving disputes, Mediation arrangements, Industry Codes, Retail and Commercial Leases and Security bonds. Information fact sheets are also available for these areas. In addition, the Small Business Commissioner will link businesses to other services that may be useful in managing a business efficiently and effectively, limiting unnecessary duplication. The State Budget in June 2013 announced a small business package. The funding is provided over two years to support small business start-ups and small business development through a new service called It s My Business. Details and fact sheets are available from the website at

6 Results to Date The Office of the Small Business Commissioner has provided assistance to many thousands of businesses and in formal disputes a success rate of 84% has been achieved. Disputes received are based on the following categories: General Business 52% Retail & Commercial Tenancies 30% Franchising 8% State Government 5% Farming 2% Other 2% Local Government 1% A copy of the Annual Report of the office can be downloaded from the website. Legislation The Office of the Small Business Commissioner operates within the following legislation: Small Business Commissioner Act 2011 Retail and Commercial Leases Act 1995 Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2009 Fair Trading Act 1987 Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) Late Payment of Government Debts (Interest) Act 2013 A copy of the relevant legislation can be found at How to Obtain Help If you need the assistance of the Small Business Commissioner you can phone the Office of the Small Business Commissioner to talk to a Case Officer or Retail Bonds Officer, send us an or fax with your request for assistance or visit our website for further information. Toll Free or Level 14, 19 Grenfell Street, Adelaide, SA, 5000 All communication with the Office of the Small Business Commissioner will be treated in a confidential manner.

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