“Some people have built their entire businesses on social media and digital platforms and having someone else access and control their account is devastating,” says Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Bruce Billson.


bba231"The ultimate run around": Bruce Billson, ASBFEO“The number of cases involving digital services and platform providers is double the proportion we received just two years ago,” Billson said. “I have been vocal in our concern about the rising number of problems small and family businesses are encountering with digital platform providers, particularly the nightmare in restoring an account that has been shut down after being hacked.

“Some people have built their entire businesses on social media and digital platforms and having someone else access and control their account is devastating for their business and their reputation. They watch the financial and emotional damage occur in real time with no ability to stop it.

“One of the absurdities of the current situation is after being locked out of your account, you need to access your account to make a complaint. It’s the ultimate run around. It is crucial that clear, appropriate, and standardised procedures be put in place to enable a timely resolution for small business disputes with digital platforms.

“We have been active in directly seeking resolutions for small and family businesses. When we contact the digital platforms, most have engaged constructively and have provided us with a direct contact to enable these disputes to be escalated and regularly leads to satisfactory outcomes. However, they are not always consistent and the need for a government body to step in to resolve every small business dispute is not the answer.”

The ASBFEO this week announced it has reached the milestone of helping 40,000 small businesses seeking assistance with a dispute.

The number one type of dispute facing small businesses relates to being paid and it accounts for almost two out of five cases. There has also been a sharp rise in small businesses seeking help in disputes with digital platform providers and in cases relating to the construction industry.

Billson said there has been a doubling over two years in the proportion of cases relating to the construction industry, which now accounts for just over one in 10 of the calls for assistance.

“This coincides with the rising number of insolvencies in the construction sector,” he said. “In one example, a family enterprise that subcontracts in the construction industry contacted us because they had not been paid and this was affecting their ability to pay their own subcontractors. As a result of these difficulties, a family member working in the business also suffered mental health problems. They were grateful for our guidance to resolve their issues.

"We provide access to mental health support and tools to help people start and grow a business, and make better business decisions. We also offer a Tax Concierge Service for small businesses who have a dispute with the Tax Office."

Small and family businesses with a dispute can find more information on the ASBFEO website - www.asbfeo.gov.au – which also includes resources, check lists, tools and more information about the Tax Concierge Service.


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