Archive for October 21st, 2013

VCAT not bound to refer matters to arbitration

On 17 October 2013 I posted a note about Subway Systems Australia Pty Ltd v Ireland [2013] VSC 550 which concerned a dispute between a franchisor and a franchisee. The franchise agreement contained an arbitration clause.  VCAT refused to refer the dispute to arbitration pursuant to s.8 of the Commercial Arbitration Act 2011 which provides that:

“A court before which an action is brought in a matter which is the subject of an arbitration agreement must, if a party so requests not later than when the submitting party’s first statement on the substance of the dispute, refer the parties to arbitration unless it finds that the agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed.”

Justice Croft held that VCAT was not a “court” within the meaning of s.8 and therefore the dispute could be heard and determined in VCAT.

The decision is significant because many agreements, particularly franchising agreements, contain arbitration clauses. The effect of the judgment is that if a proceeding is commenced in VCAT concerning an agreement that contains an arbitration clause a party to that agreement cannot request the Tribunal to refer the matter to arbitration pursuant to s.8.  If the same proceeding were commenced in the Magistrates’ Court, the County Court or the Supreme Court, the Court could refer the proceeding to arbitration. According to Justice Croft this did not produce an absurdity because VCAT was intended to be a forum for speedy and inexpensive resolution of disputes.

Justice Croft noted that a party to a proceeding in VCAT could still apply under s.77 of the VCAT Act to have the matter referred to the arbitral tribunal on the basis that it was a more appropriate forum.

In the earlier post about Subway  the Commercial Arbitration Act 2011 was erroneously referred to as a Commonwealth Act; the reference should have been to a Victorian Act.

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Management fees – Practice Note for LIV’s November 2012 lease revision

The Law Institute of Victoria is issuing a Practice Notice concerning the reference to the amount of, and the calculation of, management fees in item 10 of  the schedule in the November 2012 Revision. The Practice Note says:

“When using the LIV Commercial lease for a retail premises lease containing an option to renew and under which management fees will be payable, it is recommended that:

  • Item 10 of the Schedule be modified by deleting the paragraph beginning ‘If the Act applies’ and ending ‘section 49(4)’.
  • The information relating to the amount of the management fee and the method of calculating the amount payable by the tenant, for the first accounting period of the lease term, be specified in the disclosure statement rather than the lease.  This will satisfy section 49(1)(b) without creating potential issues where an option is exercised.  When an option is exercised, the disclosure statement for the new term should also specify the management fee and the method of calculating the amount payable by the tenant for the first accounting period of the new lease.”

The Practice Note was drafted by Derry Davine and Robert Hay.

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