THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has issued a reminder to horticulture industry players to seek mediation if there is a dispute under the Horticulture Code of Conduct.
Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, said the mandatory code aims to improve the clarity and transparency of trading arrangements between growers and traders.
"My office can provide growers and traders with information and assistance with dispute resolution, including access to mediation services and produce assessors," Ms Carnell said.
"Mediation is a far more cost-effective and timely way to resolve disputes than taking legal action."
"Our website also features a list of horticulture produce assessors who can help resolve a disagreement by investigating and reporting on matters linked to a horticulture produce agreement.
"Assessors can address issues such as whether a trader was entitled to reject produce or whether a grower has received the correct payment from the trader.
"Once an assessor is involved, all parties have to comply with the assessor's reasonable requests and failure to do so can attract a penalty.
"At the end of the day we want to keep small businesses out of the courts, where let's face it, the only winners are lawyers.
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"The good news is that the majority of small business disputes my office assists with are resolved at mediation or before."
The Ombudsman's office has provided free assistance to more than 20,000 small businesses nation-wide since it opened four years ago.
Two-out-of-three of those disputes were successfully resolved at mediation or prior to that.
"We want to help small businesses resolve their disputes as quickly as possible so they can get on with what they do best - running their business," Ms Carnell said.
Visit: www.asbfeo.gov.au or call the hotline 1300 650 460.
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