Fair, efficient justice for all Victorians

You can access further information by following the links to the LEFT of this page. 

Civil Disputes

The Civil Claims List at VCAT hears cases about goods and services supplied to or by someone in Victoria.

There is no limit on the cost or value of the goods or services in dispute, or on the amount of payment or compensation that can be claimed.

Whether a transaction was ‘in trade or commerce’ can be important in establishing which laws apply and whether VCAT can hear the case.

In simple terms, businesses act in trade or commerce but private citizens do not. For example, if you buy a car from:

  • a car dealer, the dealer acts in trade or commerce
  • an individual in a private sale, the seller does not act in trade or commerce

When the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) applies, it:

  • establishes consumer guarantees that require goods and services to be of a certain standard
  • prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct, false representations and unconscionable conduct

When VCAT can hear a case, it can order remedies including:

  • payment of damages and refunds
  • winding back of contracts (rescission)
  • performing of repairs

Disputes we can hear

Disputes about goods

VCAT can hear cases about goods, whether or not they were supplied in trade or commerce.

For example, the tribunal may be able to hear your case if you:

  • sold goods, and claim payment from the buyer
  • bought goods, and claim they are defective
  • received the goods as a gift, and claim they are defective

The ACL applies if the goods were supplied in trade or commerce. If you received the product as a gift, you have the same rights as a person who bought the product directly.

If the ACL does not apply, a contract between the parties may govern their rights and obligations - even if that contract was not in writing.

Disputes about services

VCAT may be able to hear your case if you:

  • supplied services, and claim payment from the buyer
  • acquired services, and claim they were defective
  • lent or borrowed money under a loan contract, whether or not that contract was in writing

VCAT can hear cases about services supplied in trade or commerce. This covers most disputes, such as those about:

  • work performed by a plumber or an accountant in their business
  • rights and obligations under an insurance policy or a bank loan
  • rights under some club memberships

VCAT may not be able to hear a case about services not supplied in trade or commerce - it will depend on the facts of the case.

For example, VCAT could hear a dispute about a hairdressing service when the hairdresser was paid cash-in-hand to cut someone’s hair at home, rather than in the salon. The payment would show that the services were supplied in trade or commerce, even though the work was not done at the salon.

Disputes we cannot hear

VCAT cannot hear some cases, such as disputes between:

  • an employer and employee, because they do not concern ‘services’
  • neighbours about their fence, because these must be heard by a Court (for more information, view our Fencing Disputes page)
  • the drivers in a car accident
  • people who are not connected with Victoria

Need Advice?

VCAT cannot give you legal advice or tell you whether you should or should not bring your case to VCAT.

For a list of organisations which may be able to provide you with free assistance or low cost legal advice please see the Additional Resources page.


For information on how to apply, view the Applications page.

Application Forms and Guides are available from the Forms and Guides box to the RIGHTof this page.


For the latest fees, view our  Fees page.

Related information

Consumer Affairs Victoria website - see shopping and fair trading sections for information on Australian Consumer Law rights and responsibilities.

Contact Information

VCAT - Civil Claims List
55 King Street
Melbourne  VIC  3000
Postal Address: 
GPO Box 5408
Melbourne  VIC  3001
(Inquiries at Ground floor) Ausdoc DX 210576 Melbourne
(03) 9628 9830
Toll free: 1800 133 055 (Country callers only)
(03) 9628 9967
Office Hours: 
9.00 am to 4.30 pm