The success of a petrol station business will heavily rely on a functioning and reliable relationship between you and your supplier. It then goes without saying that if you have a fuel supply dispute, you should address the issues immediately. This article steps through how to resolve a dispute with your fuel supplier.
It’s easy to overlook negotiating with the other party when a dispute arises. When a relationship breaks down, you are hardly in the best mindset to compromise. However, don’t underestimate the benefits of good faith negotiation. Remember to explain the issues as you see them clearly. Take the time to listen to the other party, and focus on your interests.
2. Dispute Resolution Under the Oilcode
The ‘Oilcode’ is a schedule of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) and governs fuel supply and retail. Part 4 of the Oilcode establishes a dispute resolution procedure that applies to disputes between a petrol wholesaler who fails to supply a petroleum product to a customer, and any other disputes arising between parties to a fuel reselling agreement. The Oilcode breaks dispute resolution procedures into two categories.
Section 43: Disputes About the Supply of a Declared Petroleum Product
Disputes arise in this category when a wholesaler fails to supply a declared petroleum product to a customer. When this happens, you need to:
- write to the other party detailing the nature of the dispute;
- the outcome that you desire; and
- the action(s) that you consider the other party needs to take to resolve the dispute.
If the matter remains unresolved after this, you can refer the dispute to the Oilcode Dispute Resolution Adviser to make a non-binding determination. A non-binding determination is a judgement on the matter that is not legally enforceable. It does, however, carry significant weight as a court may consider the determination and whether the parties have complied with it when deciding on the matter.
When making a non-binding determination, the dispute resolution adviser may seek information including:
- contractual arrangements between the parties;
- compliance with the Code; and
- what action each party has taken to try and resolve the dispute.
Section 44: Disputes Other Than Under Section 43
Disputes in this category relate to disputes other than a failure to supply a declared petroleum product. If your dispute falls into this category, you can agree with the other party to the dispute on how to resolve it. If you cannot agree, you can refer the matter to the Dispute Resolution Adviser who has the power to appoint a mediator to try and resolve the dispute for you.
Mediation is a way to solve a legal problem outside of court. A mediator acts as a third, neutral facilitator between the parties, and helps them address the issues. Parties may choose whether or not to receive advice from a lawyer.
3. Going to Court
If you cannot resolve your dispute through the above methods, it may be time to consider taking further legal action by commencing proceedings in an appropriate court or tribunal. You can do this by filing a statement of claim setting out:
- what you are claiming;
- the grounds on which you are legally entitled to claim; and
- other relevant facts and details.
Also, the Oilcode gives you the right to commence proceedings at any stage of attempting to resolve a dispute. When considering lodging a claim with a court, it is always sensible to obtain legal advice.
There are several steps you can take to resolve your fuel supply dispute. Don’t rule out negotiation and other forms of out-of-court dispute resolution procedures as they can be efficient and cost-effective. As a first step, it is worthwhile discussing your options with an experienced disputes lawyer. If you have any questions or need assistance resolving your dispute with a fuel supplier, get in touch with LegalVision’s disputes resolution team on 1300 544 755,
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