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In Subway Systems Australia Pty Ltd v Ireland  VSC 550 Croft J held that a requirement in a franchise agreement that disputes be referred to arbitration did not prevent VCAT hearing and determining the dispute.
The matter came before Croft J as an application for leave after a VCAT member declined to find that the Tribunal was bound by s.8 of the Commercial Arbitration Act 2011 (Vic)) (CAA) to refer the dispute to arbitration.
In broad terms s.8 of the CAA requires a court before which an action is brought in a matter which is the subject of an arbitration agreement to refer the matter to arbitration if one of the parties makes that request. Croft J held that VCAT was not a “court” for the purpose of s.8(1) and therefore VCAT was not bound to refer the dispute to arbitration.
In Subway Systems Australia Pty Ltd v Ireland  VSCA 142 the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from Justice Croft’s decision. Maxwell P and Beach JA held that VCAT was a “court” for the purposes of s.8 of the CAA. Kyrou AJA dissented. This means that the dispute must now be referred to arbitration. The Court of Appeal’s decision can be found here:
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