Join a VCAT case – Goods and services disputes

If you want to involve someone in a VCAT case, find out what your options are and what you need to do.

Join a VCAT case

If you’re an applicant or respondent in a goods and services dispute, you can add (join) someone to your case.

If you ask to have someone added to a case, VCAT must agree. VCAT may also decide to join someone.

They may be added as an applicant or respondent, depending on who you are and their role in the case. This means they can participate in a case and have their reviews heard.

  • If you’re an applicant you can apply to add a new respondent
  • But as an applicant you can’t add another applicant without their consent. This is because if you both lose the case, you could both be ordered to pay costs.
  • Someone can also be added to a case as an interested party or ‘joined party’. This is a person whose interests are affected. They aren’t actually claiming money or something else from anyone, but the decision could affect them. For example, a finance company who has a mortgage on the car an applicant is claiming to be faulty.

If you've been joined to a case

The party who applied to join you should have sent you a copy of the application and documents about the case. If you haven’t received these, contact them if you have their details.

If we have set a hearing, we send you a notice of hearing.

Apply to join someone to a case

In your application, give us their name, address, and details of how the person or organisation you want to join is affected by the dispute or possible outcome.

Apply to join someone now

What happens next

1 We receive your application to join someone as a party
2 Send a copy of the applications to the party you want to join

Send a copy of the original application and your application to join someone to the person or organisation you want added to the case.

Until we agree, we don’t send them information about the case. You should send them information so they’re aware they may have to get involved.

If the person you want to join is a company, you must send it to their registered office shown on the ASIC Current Company Extract.

3 We assess your application

We assess your application and decide whether to add the person or organisation you’ve named.

If we decide to join them, a VCAT member makes an order to do this. The member could also ask you to submit a separate application against the person you’ve asked to join.

If the member considers the dispute complex or needs more information, they may ask everyone to come to VCAT for a directions hearing.

The notice gives you the date, time and whether you need to attend by phone, video or in person. The notice explains what you need to do next.

Check the time, date and location (if you are coming to VCAT in person).


4 Send a copy of the notice of hearing

If you need to come to a directions hearing where we decide on the application to join, we send you a Notice of Directions Hearing. 

You must send the person you want to join a copy of the notice of that hearing as soon as possible.

They can come to the hearing and oppose your application.

We make a decision at this hearing. If they are joined, the member makes an order to name them as an applicant, respondent or interested party and tells everyone in the case what they need to do next.

More about directions hearings

5 On the day

If you are attending by phone or video

If you are attending by phone or video make sure you’re ready at the time we give you. (It’s too late to ask to attend by phone on the day of the hearing).

How to attend by videoconference

If you are coming to VCAT in person

If you are coming to VCAT, find out about what to expect on the day – including how to behave, and how the hearing works.

Arrive at least 30 minutes early to allow time to get through the security screening (similar to security at the airport) and find your hearing room. 

When you arrive:

  • Check your room at Upcoming hearings or speak to a staff member if you need help finding your hearing room.
  • Go to the hearing room and be ready to present your case.
  • Speak to a staff member if you have arranged security, disability support, an interpreter, or need help setting up your devices.

Bring any evidence you want to use to tell your side of the dispute.

6 Get an outcome

If you come to a hearing, the VCAT member makes a decision and gives an order.

An order tells parties how the case has been decided and any action that they might take.

All parties must follow VCAT’s decision. If you don’t understand the order, ask the member. We give you a written order on the day or we send it to you a few weeks after the hearing.

Help and support

  • You can contact the other party (or they can contact you) at any time to try to come to an agreement before the hearing. If you do reach an agreement, you and the other parties must let us know in writing, and copy in the other party, as soon as possible. 

    If you make an offer to settle and you want to keep it confidential, make it in writing to the other party and use the words ‘without prejudice’ in your offer. 

    This means that if your offer is not accepted by the other party, it cannot be discussed at a hearing. 

    You can try and resolve the dispute without VCAT right up until the day of the hearing, and for residential tenancy disputes, in the hearing.

    After you settle, if you’re the applicant you can end your case by asking us:

    • to withdraw your application
    • to strike out your case with the right to apply for reinstatement (except in a review of a planning decision) 
    • for consent orders. 

    Learn more about how you can settle a dispute outside VCAT

  • To change your VCAT application you need to ask before the final hearing for the change to be made.

    We can’t always make every type of change to every type of case. For example, if what you're asking is something we cannot deal with or a time limit has passed.

    We usually accept changes to your contact details before your hearing. If you're asking to change a name or the details of your claim, you may have to wait until you go to a hearing to find out if we can accept it.

    1. Tell us what you want to change (for example, contact details) and your reasons in writing, by post or by email.
      Find the right email address for your type of case or send a written letter to GPO Box 5408, Melbourne VIC 3000
    2. Include the application reference number and any documents that support the change.
    3. Tell the other person or business (the other ‘party’) about the change in writing, and send them copies of any new documents.

    VCAT must review and accept your change and we’ll tell you the outcome. 

    Sometimes we’ll arrange a brief session called a ‘directions hearing’ to work out if we’ll allow the change. This often happens when the other person or business involved (the respondent) has a problem with the change.

    Planning cases

    If you are the permit applicant and want to change your application, you need to send the notice and complete the Statement of Service to confirm you’ve shared your documents. 

    To find the right contact details relevant to your dispute, see Contacts and locations.

    See also: Can I change the amount I’m claiming in my application?

  • A change to the date of a directions hearing, mediation, compulsory conference or hearing is called an ‘adjournment’. 
    If you can’t come to VCAT on the date we give you, you can ask for a change of date (adjournment). 

    First, ask the other parties in the case to agree using the Request for consent to an adjournment form

    Then, send us an adjournment application form no later than: 

    • two business days before a directions hearing, mediation or compulsory conference
    • two business days before a hearing for a residential tenancy case
    • five business days before a hearing for all other cases.

    You must: 

    • give us good reasons for the change, like a sudden illness, accident or bereavement in the family
    • give us evidence in writing to support your reasons (for example, a medical certificate)
    • ask for the change in writing no later than two business days before the directions hearing, mediation or compulsory conference or five days before a final hearing. 

    We may not agree to change the date, even if every person involved in the case agrees. Ask for an adjournment as soon as possible.

    A change of date isn’t always possible, and we can’t change the date simply to speed things up. The hearing will go ahead as scheduled if we don’t confirm a new date and time with you.
    Download the Adjournment Application Form

    See also: What happens if I can't come to VCAT?

  • You can bring someone with you to your hearing for support. This support person could be anyone you choose, including a friend or family member. They can’t usually speak on your behalf, but they can help explain what you need (for example, ask for a break). 

    You can’t bring someone to translate for you.

    If you need an interpreter you must ask us for a VCAT interpreter

    Support for people affected by family violence

    If you are a protected person or responding to a case and under a family violence intervention order, you can choose to bring a support person to VCAT. The support person can be anyone you choose, including a lawyer, social worker, family member or friend.

    Find out more about support for people affected by family violence at VCAT

    If you want someone to speak on your behalf, you must ask for it in writing.

    Template of written authority for someone to represent you

    Use this template to give someone authority to represent you. We call this person an ‘agent’.

    I, <NAME> (or Your Company Pty Ltd, if a company), a party in the VCAT case reference number xxxxx/20xx wish to be represented at VCAT.

    I give permission for <representative's name and occupation> (add 'employed by the company' if you're a company) to represent me.

    The agent has sufficient knowledge of the issues in dispute and has my permission to bind me to any settlement.

    Date xx/xx/xx

    Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________

  • The way VCAT handles your information is based on the legal principle that justice should usually be administered in public, with principles of privacy. 
    This means there is a balance between the information we must share and keeping your information confidential.  

    • We store information about people who have been involved in cases at VCAT. This can include names, addresses and phone numbers 
    • If you give information to us for a case we are hearing, the law generally requires it to be given to the other parties in the case (unless it's protected information). 
    • If you want to provide information to us in confidence you must first apply for confidentiality
    • Most VCAT hearings are open to the public, including journalists  
    • People who are not part of the case can apply to see VCAT files 
    • VCAT written decisions for some case types are published on the AustLII website
    • Confidentiality is a priority in guardianship cases. We decide what access to information is given, who to and on what conditions. 

    Learn more about your privacy at VCAT