The Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) is providing small businesses with fast access to help in resolving a range of disputes that could arise during the COVID-19 crisis.

Help on offer includes assistance early on over the phone as well as access to a mediation service to resolve more complex disputes.

Victorian Small Business Commissioner Judy O’Connell said she has seen an increase in commercial tenants and landlords contacting the VSBC over situations where the tenant is having a lot of difficulty paying rent.

"We encourage tenants to first read their lease closely to make sure they understand their rights and obligations and if anything isn’t clear, they should seek legal advice or contact us for help.

"It’s vital that tenants and landlords communicate as early as possible to try to reach an agreement, and if this fails, they can come to us," she said.

Disputes that the VSBC can offer assistance on include conflicts over goods and services, unpaid invoices and disputes with financial providers and insurers.

O'Connell added that while many businesses are struggling to pay their expenses, it is in the best interests of everyone to cooperate and pay as soon as possible.

"With so many businesses struggling to pay for goods or not being able to supply services that had been agreed to, it’s so important that small business owners know they can turn to us for help if they find themselves in a dispute.

"We’re calling on big businesses to do what is right and pay small business suppliers as soon as they can, and in instances where this isn’t happening, small business owners can seek our help," she said.

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