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Government & legal system

The Tribunal’s decision

How does the referee make a decision?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, ss 18, 41, 186

If you can’t come to a decision on your own, the referee will make a decision for you.

Referees will take the law into account, but they can make a decision based on what they think is fair and right, rather than a strict application of the law.

The referee will usually tell you their decision at the end of the hearing, or they might wait and send you the decision later. Either way, you’ll be sent the written order, usually within two weeks of the hearing.

In some rare circumstances, the referee may need further information before they can make a decision. If so, the referee may put the hearing on hold and appoint a Tribunal investigator to prepare an independent report on the case. The Tribunal pays for the cost of the investigator.

What types of orders can be made?

Disputes Tribunal Act 1988, s 19

The referee can make different types of orders. The most common order is for one party to pay money to the other, but the referee can also:

  • order one party to deliver goods to the other (for example, if goods have been paid for and not delivered)
  • order one party to carry out or complete work for the other
  • change or cancel a contract or agreement between the parties
  • make an order declaring that a party is not liable to pay the disputed amount to the other
  • dismiss the claim.

What’s the time frame for following the referee’s decision?

You’ll usually have 28 days to complete the payment or action ordered by the referee.

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The Disputes Tribunal

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Disputes Tribunal

This website includes general information about how to apply, fees, the hearing process, and appeals.

Website: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz

Information on how to make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/how-to-make-a-claim
Make a claim online:  www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/how-to-make-a-claim/apply-online
Applying to the Disputes Tribunal by paper: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/assets/DT-Claim-form2.pdf

Some Disputes Tribunal decisions are available to read at: www.disputestribunal.govt.nz/disputes-decision-finder 

Consumer NZ

Consumer NZ provides information on how the Disputes Tribunal works and may be a helpful resource for consumer-related claims.

Website: www.consumer.org.nz/articles/disputes-tribunals
Email: info@consumer.org.nz
Phone: 0800 266 786

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for information about the Disputes Tribunal process.

Website: www.cab.org.nz
Phone: 0800 367 222
Find your local CAB office: www.cab.org.nz select “Find a CAB”

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