"I need a refund"
If you didn’t get the product you paid for, there are laws to protect you. Rachel came to VCAT because she wanted to get a refund.
A ‘wrong’ product
Rachel is a nurse at the local Aboriginal health service. She wants to buy a car so she can get to work easier.
She sees an ad online for a second hand car. The ad says that the car has done 40,000 kms and has a brand new interior.
When Rachel picks up the car, she notices that the seats are worn out and ripped at the back. The car has also done 65,000 kms.
Laws around a product or service
If you buy a product or a service, there are laws to make sure you get what you paid for. A product or service can’t be very different from how it’s described in an ad. It must also be of acceptable quality.
Applying to VCAT
Rachel wants to return the car because it’s not what she paid for. She asks for a refund, but the dealer refuses.
Rachel doesn’t know what her rights are. She can’t afford a lawyer so she calls Consumer Affairs Victoria for advice. They suggest she write to the dealer, to show that she asked for a refund.
She can try to settle the dispute directly with the car dealer and save herself the time of taking legal action. If that doesn’t work she can also apply to VCAT. VCAT can order the dealer to pay her a refund.
Rachel decides to apply to VCAT. She’d prefer to negotiate with the dealer directly, but feels she has no choice because she’s not getting anywhere. She emails the dealer to let them know.
Get help and advice
It’s a good idea to get advice about your rights and situation before you apply. VCAT can’t give you legal advice. These organisations may be able to help you.
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Advice on faulty products, refunds, exchanges and your consumer rights. Call 1300 55 81 81 and select the Koori option.
Consumer Action Koori Help
Legal advice on utility bills, debt, payday loans and your consumer rights. Call 1800 574 457.
Asking for another date
Rachel gets a notice from VCAT with a hearing date to resolve the dispute. She can’t come on that date because she needs to go back to country for a few weeks for her aunty’s funeral.
Rachel calls VCAT’s Koori Helpline to ask for another date. She speaks to a Koori Support Officer who explains that she needs to ask VCAT in writing.
The Koori Support Officer also explains to Rachel how a hearing works and what she can do to prepare.
VCAT allows Rachel to change the date of her hearing.
‘It’s nothing more than just saying, ‘hey, one of your mob is here’. Having someone else who inherently understands is huge! It makes a massive difference!’
At the hearing
On the day of the hearing, Rachel is nervous about coming face to face with the dealer. She feels a bit better though, because she could bring her sister with her and the Koori Support Officer talked her through what to expect.
The member gives everyone a chance to speak. Rachel is prepared and explains what happened. She shows the photos she took of the car and the receipt to back up her case.
The member asks questions from Rachel and the dealer to get all the facts. After considering the evidence, they order the dealer to refund the money Rachel paid for the car.
This decision is in the order Rachel receives.
What’s an order?
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 they must take. All parties follow VCAT's orders.
What’s a member?
A person who hears and decides cases at VCAT. Some members are specialists in particular areas of law.
‘She had empathy…that's what I needed and that's what she gave me. That was really good.’
Don’t understand the order?
Ask the member to explain it to you in the hearing. Or call the Koori Helpline on 0417 516 335.
Rachel’s relieved and looks forward to getting her money back from the dealer. She’s glad she stood up for herself. She felt heard.
The Koori Support Officer’s help made it a lot easier to explain her situation.
Rachel tells her family and friends about the Koori Helpline, so they can also get support when they need it. Having Koori support at VCAT is handy for community, and she hopes that by sharing her story, it’ll be easier for others to raise their issues at VCAT.
‘I’ve told people if you’ve got any issues, go and see them. I’ll promote VCAT because of that, because of how good they were to me.’
Start your application
Before you start your application, we step you through the process and tell you about application fees, timeframes and documents you need. You pay when you submit your application.
If you are experiencing financial hardship, you may be eligible for fee relief. You can apply for fee relief at the same time as you submit your application.
Help and support
Can I apply to VCAT over the phone?
If you don’t have email or the internet you can talk to us to apply to VCAT. We can send you a hard copy form.
We can help you complete the form but we can't give you legal advice or tell you what to write.
- Call us on 1300 018 228 (1300 01 VCAT), Monday - Friday 9am - 4.30pm. For guardianship cases call us 9am - 5pm.
- If you’re overseas, call us on +61 3 8685 1462.
- If you need to speak to someone in your own language you can ask for an interpreter. Call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450.
What can I do if I can’t pay the fees?
If you believe paying VCAT fees would cause you financial hardship, you can apply for fee relief at the same time you apply to VCAT.
If we agree, this means we may:
- waive the fee
- reduce the amount you have to pay
- postpone the amount you have to pay.
Any individual can apply for fee relief, including people who don’t have a concession card, but you must meet eligibility criteria. We’ll ask you to give us a summary of your personal financial situation to support your application.
You only need to apply once. Our decision applies to all VCAT fees you’re asked to pay in your case.
What happens if I can’t come to VCAT?
If you can’t come to VCAT in person or on the scheduled date for a serious reason (for example, you have a disability, are away or unwell) you have a few options. You can:
- ask to attend by phone VCAT decides if this is fair to all parties.
- apply to change the date (adjourn) two business days before you’re due to come. For a final hearing, you must do this at least five business days before.
- ask for permission to give someone the authority to come in your place. This is different from having a legal or professional representative.
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.
Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________
What happens if I miss my hearing?
What happens if you miss the hearing depends on if you’re the applicant or the respondent.
- If you’re the applicant and you don’t come to the hearing, the hearing can’t go ahead and your application may be dismissed or struck out
- If you’re a respondent and you don’t come, VCAT may make a decision that affects you and can be enforced by a court. For example, the member could make an order for costs against you.
If you have a good enough reason for not coming, and you didn’t have someone come for you, you may be able to apply for a review and rehearing (called ‘reopening an order’).
You need to make this application within 14 days of finding out about the order. There’s no guarantee that VCAT will agree.