Visit creates insight into disputes

SMALL Business Commissioner (SBC)Mike Sinkunas and Deputy SmallBusiness Commissioner Frank Zumbocame through Bordertown on theirregional South Australia visit recently.

The trip saw both Commissioners travelthroughout regional SA to small businesses,taking time out to meet owners and local councilmembers.

During their time in Bordertown both MrSinkunas and Mr Zumbo met with Bordertownand Keith Pharmacy owner Arn Doan andTatiara District Council Mayor Richard Vickeryand CEO Robert Harkness to discuss the roleof the new commission.

The SBC is a State Government fundedoperation which is also independent fromthe State Government; this gives the SBCmore flexibility to resolve disputes in a timelymanner.

Mr Sinkunsa said: “The key priority (of theSBC) is to resolve disputes quickly, because itreduces legal expenses, risk of having to go tocourt and the risk of relationships breakingdown.

“We are about trying to preserve commercialrelationships so they can get on with doingbusiness, so all those matters we resolve meansthose matters have not gone to court.”

Mr Zumbo said: “It’s very important thatregional communities are involved in this,because often regional communities think ‘wellI can’t access the service’, we do have a websitea toll free number and we’ll come back again,it’s not just a one-time visit.”

“We have had some communities thatwant us to come back again and run asmall business forum to talk about thesorts of issues that they have got, butalso to explain in detail, how disputeresolution processes work, if we needto send a case officer up here we can dosome work up here.”

The SBC of SA exists to initiate disputeresolutions, which takes on threestages, these include Initial Assistance,Pre-Mediation and External Mediation.

Mr Sinkunas said that although thereare three stages, disputes rarely escalatepast the Initial Assistance, which is afree service to businesses.

The SBC started on March 29 andsince that time the service has seen120 issues resolved, with around halfof those being closed resulting in a 85per cent success rate.

The two biggest dispute areas tend tobe retail leasing (issue with the landlord)and franchising, where you may have anissue with the franchisor.

“We have had a steady stream ofdisputes between Small business andstate government bodies which involve awhole range of departments for examplethe issue late payment of invoices orbills, so that has been a big issue, whereif small businesses don’t get paid on timeby the government, that affects theircash flow,” said Mr Sinkunas.

Currently the Commission hasapproximately 60 cases open at themoment.

Step one, Initial Assistance involvesthe commissioner and office staff assessingeach matter, information will beprovided such as responsibilities underrelevant legislation where appropriate.

An officer within the offi ce of the SBCwill be assigned the case.

The commissioner or his delegate willmake contact with the other party orparties to request preliminary informationwhere necessary to seek that partiesview on the matter.

In the past businesses would belimited to going to their lawyer or goingto court.

The first step is free, if this issue escalatesit then proceeds to mediation at acost of $195 per party, per mediation.

To date, all the disputes have beenhandled at no cost.

For more information visit the Small Business Commissioner website.

MEET: Deputy Small Business Commissioner Frank Zumbo and Small Business Commissioner Mike Sinkunas meet with Tatiara District Council CEO Robert Harkness and Mayor Richard Vickery in front of the council chambers.

VISIT: Bordertown and Keith Pharmacy owner Arn Doan speaking to Deputy Small Business Commissioner Frank Zumbo and Small Business Commissioner Mike Sinkunas on their visit to town businesses about the service.

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Posted by at 22/07/2019
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