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How to enforce a Disputes Tribunal Order for trade

Taking a claim to the Disputes Tribunal when things go wrong.

27 April 2022

It is always regrettable when Trade Me members are forced to head to the Disputes Tribunal to resolve lemon trades.

We do our best to help the parties resolve things before this point, however it is sometimes the case that the best place to sort a matter out once and for all is in front of a professional and independent adjudicator, like a Dispute Tribunal Referee.

When matters head to the Disputes Tribunal, there is, by definition, a disagreement between the parties.

Most commonly we see disputes relating to the condition of goods supplied or the failure of buyers or sellers to go through with purchases following successful auctions.

The Disputes Tribunal is often in the best position to assess the merits of a case from all angles.

So, when members obtain a ruling in their favour, it means both parties have had the opportunity to present their case and a decision has been made.

Trade Me will support the enforcement of that ruling.

It is important to remember that orders of the Disputes Tribunal are Court orders and there are consequences for non-compliance.

This means if you have been to the Disputes Tribunal over a Trade Me listing and the other party has failed to comply with any orders by the date required, we want to hear about it.

We will need to see a copy of the signed Disputes Tribunal ruling to confirm your position.

Before you get in touch with us you should make sure you have done all that you are required to do to help the other party in complying with the order.

This means, if you are required to supply the other party a bank account for them to pay money into, you should do it.

If you are required to return goods before a refund can be paid, you need to do that as well.

What can happen if you fail to comply with a Dispute Tribunal Order?

We take compliance with Court orders extremely seriously here at Trade Me.

Over and above the action the Courts can take for non-compliance, Trade Me also reserves the right to restrict or suspend the account of any member who refuses to comply with an order of the Disputes Tribunal.

The Ministry of Justice has useful information on enforcing Disputes Tribunal orders here, but in short, currently if the other party fails to comply you can apply to the Court for an Order for Examination.

This will require the other party (the debtor) to appear before the Court to decide whether they are capable of paying the debt.

If they are assessed capable of paying, the Court can make further orders that assets be seized (currently called a Distress Warrant, but shortly to be called a Warrant to Seize Property) or that deductions are made from the debtor’s wages or salary (called Attachment Order).

The Court is about to make changes that make enforcing a Disputes Tribunal order even easier, quicker and cheaper.

These changes are worth waiting for, because from 14 April not only will parties be able to resolve a dispute through the Disputes Tribunal, but if both parties are able to, a repayment plan can also be agreed during the hearing (called an Agreed Attachment Order) – simple, a one-stop shop for resolution.

If repayments can’t be agreed, either party will be able to apply for deductions to be made from the debtor’s wages or salary without needing an assessment to take place at Court.

If needed, you will still be able to apply for a financial assessment of the debtor’s means to pay, but you’ll have a choice of how this happens – on paper based on information you provide, by telephone, or through an in Court assessment, but if you know where the debtor works or that they’re on a benefit you can simply apply for deductions from their wages or salary.

Note that Trade Me may also be requested to supply information to assist parties applying for Examination Orders or in future, financial assessments, including evidence to establish the ability of the other party to pay a debt.

So, in short, if you lose your case at the Disputes Tribunal, you risk losing your Trade Me membership and there is a possibility of further legal action if you do not comply with the Tribunal’s orders.

It’s also a pretty uncool move, so do the right thing and make it right.