What happens at a hearing

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Hearings are held in public and usually take 1 to 2 hours, depending on how complex the case is. The Tribunal also has the power to hear cases on the papers. If all parties agree to this process then that means you do not have to attend a formal hearing in a courtroom and the Tribunal can make a decision based on all the documentation that has been provided.

Hearing location

Hearings are usually held in the town or city closest to where the money was accepted by the trader, usually where the car yard or trader is located. For online sales, the hearing will usually be held where the car yard or trader is located. However, the adjudicator will decide where it will be held.

The Tribunal has powers to use audio visual services if it's appropriate to do so. This means a witness or party to a case can be heard by videconferencing or telephone.

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Who should attend the hearing

The person who bought the vehicle (the purchaser) and an authorised representative of the trader are expected to attend the hearing.

If you don’t attend the hearing, you might need to pay costs and/or court costs.

You will usually represent yourself at the hearing. However, there are exceptions to this for:

  • companies
  • people who are jointly liable with others
  • minors
  • people with disabilities needing help
  • anyone else if the adjudicator is satisfied that the person can’t appear in person or present their case adequately.

A barrister or solicitor can’t represent a person involved in the claim (a party) unless the barrister or solicitor made the claim or they are a majority shareholder of a company who is a party to the dispute.

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Who can give evidence

Both parties can call witnesses to give evidence on their behalf. They may also want to produce the evidence of a mechanic or expert witness who can't attend the hearing. This evidence may be heard by phone conference but this needs to be arranged with the tribunal's case manager before the hearing.

If you require a wtiness to attend a hearing please fill out the witness summons form [PDF, 94 KB].

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Evidence that can be presented

The tribunal can accept any relevant evidence and can receive evidence or information that would not normally be admissible in a court of law.

This means we can accept hearsay evidence or evidence based on what has been reported to a witness by others rather than what the witness has seen. It's helpful if evidence that is likely to be disputed is presented in person by the person who heard or saw the incident in question.

For example, if we’re asked to consider a claim that a vehicle is not of acceptable quality, it’s important that the person who applied brings to the hearing some evidence supporting this. It’s helpful if the mechanic who looked at the vehicle provides the applicant with a written report of the fault, its likely cause, and the cost of parts and labour to repair. This is better than the applicant just telling the tribunal what the mechanic said.

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What happens at the hearing

All hearings are recorded. The parties and their witnesses will be asked to promise to tell the truth. The applicant presents their evidence first and the applicant's witnesses, if any, are called to give their evidence.

The trader will give their evidence and the trader's witnesses, if any, are called to give theirs.

The applicant is given the chance to reply to anything the trader says that hasn’t already been covered.

The tribunal and the technical assessor appointed by the tribunal may ask questions of the parties and any witnesses. At the end of the hearing, the adjudicator will tell the parties when they expect to make a decision. The decision will be given to the parties in writing.

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What you should bring to the hearing

Both parties should bring 5 copies of any written statement they want to use at the hearing. The statement should include details of the claim or defence and what happened in chronological (start to finish) order.

You should also bring 4 copies of each document you want to show the tribunal that hasn't already been sent to the tribunal with the application or submitted before the hearing.

The tribunal could ask to examine parts of vehicles or examine and test drive vehicles. If you are asked to bring the vehicle in, park it close to the hearing venue/place.

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Requests for adjournments

If you want to put off the hearing, you should ask the tribunal for an adjournment as soon as possible or at least 5 working days before the hearing.

You should include supporting documentation with your application. For example, if you are not able to attend because you are overseas you will need to provide a copy of your airline tickets.

Find out more in the adjournment practice directions

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