Gig economy small-business couriers now covered for dispute resolution

Small-business couriers in the gig economy like Uber Eats and Deliveroo can now access the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) to help resolve their disputes.

Under new amendments to the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 passed in Parliament yesterday, the definition of “freight broker” has been changed to make sure contractors employed through third-party platforms like Uber Eats are covered.

The change responds to a government review that found many hirers and brokers to be in breach of the Act. For example, many weren’t providing cost schedules and contracts, leaving owner-drivers exposed to safety, income and business risks.

Commissioner Judy O’Connell has backed the change to the dispute resolution process, and our new role in providing further supports for disputes can’t be resolved through mediation.

“This new support is significant because it means gig economy small business couriers who are in dispute can come to us for determinations that are binding, keeping their disputes out of the court system,” Commissioner O’Connell said.

In 2018-19 the VSBC received 23 applications for small business driver disputes, about 85 per cent of which were successfully resolved. Where disputes couldn’t be resolved, this was because the parties couldn’t reach an agreement or the business contracting the service refused to take part in mediation.

“In a lot of instances, it’s just not worthwhile taking these matters to court because of the high costs involved – costs that are prohibitive for many small businesses,” Commissioner O’Connell said. “This important change means small business couriers will have access to a low cost, confidential and binding dispute resolution process that will let them resolve their disputes quickly so they can get back to business.”

The VSBC will start providing these new supports in May 2020.

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