What are regulatory priorities?
Consumer Affairs Victoria, part of the Victorian Department of Government
Services, is Victoria’s consumer affairs regulator. Our vision is for a fair, safe and
competitive marketplace in Victoria.
Consumer Affairs Victoria’s statutory remit includes the application of the
Australian Consumer Law in Victoria as well as residential tenancies and diverse
industry-specific regulation. Our broad statutory responsibilities and multiple
functions under more than 30 pieces of legislation mean we must have clear
priorities for our activities to meet the needs of the Victorian community.
Our regulatory priorities set out the specific areas and consumer harms we are concerned about in the marketplace, that we will focus proactive efforts on
addressing in the coming year.
This will not prevent us from responding to new, emerging or serious issues or harms
that arise during the year under our areas of regulatory responsibility. We will
always take appropriate action to address harmful conduct or breaches of the laws
We have developed these regulatory priorities having considered a range of inputs,
including emerging risks and their potential for consumer detriment, contacts from
consumers, renters, businesses and others to Consumer Affairs Victoria, Victorian
Government priorities and feedback from consumer, community and industry
Our regulatory and compliance approach
We will focus on this year’s regulatory priorities in line with our regulatory approach.
Our regulatory approach is to be intelligence-led, risk-based and outcome-focused.
You can read more about our regulatory approach.
The actions we take to monitor and enforce compliance with the laws we administer
are guided by our published compliance policy.
Our 2023-24 regulatory priorities
Our regulatory priorities span four key areas of responsibility:
Ensuring fairness and safety in competitive
We work with our Commonwealth, state and territory fair trading partner agencies
to help consumers and business understand their rights and responsibilities under,
and monitor and enforce compliance with, the Australian Consumer Law.
The framework for cooperation between Australian Consumer Law regulators is
available from the Australian Consumer Law website.
Product safety, especially unsafe products that cause harm to children
Consumers should be able to trust that the products they buy are safe and fit for
purpose. Sadly, that is not always the case. Children and young people are
especially vulnerable, with over 150 children dying each year in Australia from
To help keep consumers safe, we will continue to focus on product safety with an
emphasis on products presenting risks to young children, such as coin and button
batteries and products powered by these types of batteries.
We will respond to consumer concerns about unsafe products, inspect retail
premises and attend popular events like the Melbourne Royal Show. Where we find
dangerous or illegal items, we will remove them and take appropriate enforcement
action. We will continue our important work educating consumers and industry, to
drive awareness and compliance with new safety standards, and we will continue to
support national safety initiatives that help create a strong, ‘no-gaps’ compliance
Motor car traders that sell poor quality cars to consumers experiencing vulnerability and fail to provide a remedy
Many of us rely on our cars to get us to work, care for loved ones and attend
important events, especially if we live away from areas with good public transport. We also expect that cars offered for sale are safe and reliable. When this is not the
case the impact can be significant. Cars are a significant budget item for many
Victorian households, and especially so for consumers on a fixed or low income.
The pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine have impacted international markets in
many ways, disrupting supply chains and causing long waiting lists for some new
cars, in turn driving up demand and price for second-hand cars. These market
conditions have increased opportunities for unscrupulous traders to sell poor-quality second-hand cars, sometimes targeting those most vulnerable and in need
of safe, reliable transport.
We will continue to act on complaints and intelligence about traders selling poor
quality cars, particularly to people experiencing financial vulnerability. We will also
work with other regulators to identify and take action against motor car traders
facilitating inappropriate finance to buyers to assist in the purchase of poor quality
We will also continue to take action against those selling cars without being licensed
motor car traders. By removing rogue traders and supporting a robust licensing
scheme, we ensure Victorians can make purchases more safely and have access to
statutory protections if problems do arise.
Debt collection using prohibited practices that impact people experiencing vulnerability
With increased cost of living pressures, more Victorians are finding it harder to
make ends meet. Against this environment, we continue to identify poor conduct by
debt collectors, particularly those impacting consumers experiencing vulnerability
or with low financial literacy.
We will continue to support consumers to help them better understand their rights
and will take compliance and enforcement action where debt collectors fail to
comply with the law. In addition, we will continue to fund access to financial
counselling services, noting the importance of the front-line role that financial
counsellors play in assisting consumers to resolve debt issues.
Disability service providers engaging in unfair trading practices
The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) saw a strong
increase in the number of businesses offering goods and services to support
persons living with a disability. While an important and positive reform,
unfortunately stakeholders report to us that on some occasions goods and services
are not fit for purpose or not supplied. Such conduct can have a significant impact
on consumers with disability (and their support persons) and may put them at
higher risk of physical or financial harms.
We will continue to monitor this market, with a particular focus on identifying
providers selling unsuitable products, especially those of poor quality, as well as
those who fail to supply. We will enhance our understanding of the risks posed by
these products so we can shape our compliance and education activities
appropriately as well as share intelligence and insights with co-regulators and other
Online retailers and drop-shipping businesses that don't supply goods and fail to provide refunds
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a greater number of Victorian consumers move to
online shopping. For traders, an online marketplace means they can reach a much
broader consumer base than via traditional bricks-and-mortar stores. While
reduced overheads can translate into savings for consumers, this environment also
comes with risks. There are fewer barriers to market entry and setting up an online
store is easier than ever with some traders relying on ‘off the shelf’ virtual
shopfronts that promise fast profits and minimal running costs with little
Concurrently, the pandemic and other significant global events have disrupted
established supply chains. This has meant some traders have had difficulties
delivering products to consumers. Traders doing the right thing have adjusted
delivery timeframes, paused sales, provided refunds and had robust processes to
keep customers informed, but not all have done so.
We will continue to closely monitor complaints about non-compliant online traders
and work closely with our counterparts and stakeholders across other jurisdictions
to take swift and coordinated action when traders don’t act appropriately.
Unfair contract terms used by businesses to try to contract themselves out of responsibility
Consumers rely on businesses to do the right thing, which includes having terms
and conditions that are fair and reasonable and comply with the law.
However, we also see examples across the Victorian market where traders take
advantage of the power imbalance between them and consumers. Often these
traders try to avoid their legal responsibility to provide remedies or refunds,
especially when they have been paid but can’t provide the product or service. Following recent changes to the Australian Consumer Law, penalties for using unfair
contract terms in standard form contracts will come into force in December 2023.
We will implement a communications strategy to remind businesses and consumers
of their rights and obligations when signing up to a contract for products or
services. We will work closely with our co-regulators to identify non-compliant
contracts and encourage businesses to remove unfair terms from existing or new
contracts. We will prepare our intelligence, compliance and enforcement operations
in readiness for the new laws coming into effect.
Upholding robust standards for key industries, sectors and professions
We help administer and support sixteen business, professional and organisational
licensing and registration schemes in Victoria. Integral to these schemes is the
regulatory framework that helps maintain public confidence in these schemes and
the goods or services provided by these regulated sectors.
Where we identify conduct that falls short of applicable professional standards, we
will take action to address that conduct and protect consumers. In appropriate
cases, we will initiate court or disciplinary proceedings and may seek orders to
remove poorly behaving participants from the market.
Estate agent conduct resulting in underquoting or illegal trust account action
Purchasing a property is one of the biggest financial decisions people make.
Underquoting is when a property is advertised at a price below the estimated selling
price, the seller's asking price, or a price that has been rejected as too low by the
seller. When underquoting occurs, potential buyers can waste significant time and
money inspecting properties that were never in their price range. It may also distort
the market and create an artificial purchasing environment while enriching those
who break the law.
Given their role, estate agents and conveyancers also often hold significant monies
on trust for consumers. Their trust account obligations, including to follow regulated
account keeping practices and annual audit obligations, are critical consumer
protection measures, ensuring client money is safe when entrusted as part of a sale
or rental transaction.
At a time when households are struggling with cost-of-living pressures, the
Government has established a dedicated taskforce within Consumer Affairs Victoria
to ensure property prices are fairly and honestly advertised to protect buyers’ time
and money when they need it most. This builds on our strong focus over the past few
years on ensuring estate agents and conveyancers do not engage in underquoting
and manage their trust accounts properly.
Consumer Affairs Victoria’s underquoting taskforce will crack down on unlawful
underquoting in the property market. Building on the significant activity we have
already undertaken, we will increase our education for agents and the public,
market analysis and sales campaign monitoring, attendance at auctions and
targeted inspections. We will adopt a zero-tolerance approach to underquoting,
responding to all detected non-compliance.
We will also intervene when agents or conveyancers fail to meet their trust account
obligations or misuse trust monies. We will continue to monitor annual trust account
audits and take action, including seeking significant penalties or suspension or loss
of licence, where agents or conveyancers do not meet their obligations.
Domestic building challenges leading to unfinished or defective homes
The COVID-19 pandemic saw increases in the costs of labour and building materials
and significant interruptions to supply chains. We have received increasing
numbers of queries or complaints by consumers building or renovating their homes
seeking assistance or intervention. More recently, the collapse of several high-profile domestic builders has left significant numbers of consumers facing
unfinished builds and higher costs and further dented confidence in the market.
Consumers unprotected by insurance can suffer acute financial distress.
We will provide clear information, advice and support to consumers regarding their
consumer rights when building or renovating, including about entering into
domestic building contracts or negotiating with builders. We will work closely with
our partners and co-regulators and act swiftly to crack down on builders who
persistently fail to comply with basic consumer protections.
Professional engineers failing to get registered to improve professional conduct and outcomes
New, mandatory registration obligations commenced for professional engineers in
2021. This state-wide mandatory registration scheme was introduced to ensure
professional engineers are appropriately qualified and experienced to practise, with
the aim of allowing Victorians to make informed choices about the engineer they
engage and promote greater public confidence in local engineering services,
knowing they meet solid industry benchmarks.
The scheme is being phased in over two and a half years and by 1 December 2023,
the last of the five prescribed tranches of engineers will need to be registered.
We will continue to support the industry and work with co-regulators to help
engineers understand and comply with their new obligations, including to register
and to comply with a Code of Conduct. We will establish a new auditing process to
assess compliance with registration requirements and undertake research to better
understand the industry and ensure our promotion of the new registration
requirements is helpful and effective. In serious cases of non-compliance, we will
take disciplinary action.
Ensuring a fair and safe rental market
The rental market is experiencing considerable challenges, with low rental vacancy
rates and large increases in median rents across Victoria leaving many renters
vulnerable to financial stress or poor conduct by rental providers. Emergencies such
as floods and bushfires can further reduce housing supply and provide
opportunities for unscrupulous conduct. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the
introduction of Victoria’s rental reforms in March 2021, we have an important role as
Victoria’s residential tenancies regulator to ensure people understand and comply
with rental laws.
Victoria’s rental laws largely regulate the private rights and responsibilities between
renters and rental providers, but some types of poor conduct are also banned and
can attract penalties. We will work with partners and stakeholders to promote
awareness of the laws among rental providers and renters and will monitor and
enforce compliance with key consumer protections, particularly where poor conduct
targets renters and residents experiencing disadvantage in the current market.
Rental providers failing to provide safe and secure accommodation that meets minimum standards
Rental providers who don’t satisfy minimum health and safety standards place
renters, especially those experiencing vulnerability at risk of serious harm. Failing to
provide adequate heating or ensure mould prevention are particularly concerning
in Victoria, and under the 2021 rental reforms allowing a renter to move into a new
rental property that does not comply with minimum standards is an offence.
We will educate rental providers and ensure renters are more aware of their rights.
While individual renters can apply to the tribunal to enforce rights and obligations
regarding minimum standards and repairs, we will also monitor non-compliance
with the minimum standards and take regulatory action against rental providers
who engage in egregious, deliberate, or systemic breaches. Persons acting on behalf
of rental providers, such as estate agents advertising non-compliant residential
properties, may also be the subject of regulatory action.
We will also continue to fund support services, such as the Tenancy Assistance and
Advocacy Program, to help individual renters and residents experiencing
disadvantage get the advice and support they need.
Rooming houses failing to meet minimum standards, placing residents at risk
Rooming houses are often a housing option of last resort for some of the most
vulnerable members of our community. Rooming house operators are required to
satisfy mandatory minimum standards of safety and amenity. When these
standards are not met, residents are placed at risk of serious harms. New minimum
standards for rooming houses were introduced on 26 February 2023 that balance
the needs of residents while allowing operators to manage their properties
sustainably. They build on the minimum standards that have been in operation for
Victorian rooming houses since 2012 and have been a strong focus of our inspection
and compliance activities since that time.
Working closely with our key stakeholders, our education and compliance
monitoring programs will continue to focus on improving the standards of rooming
houses. We will continue to conduct inspections, with a particular focus on the new
minimum standards and on the minimum standards applicable to electrical and gas
safety and door and window locks. If we identify serious or systemic breaches, we
will take further compliance and enforcement action, which may include seeking to
cancel operators’ licences. We will use the full range of enforcement options against
any unlicensed operators detected
Residential parks presenting new risks to consumers that need closer monitoring
Residential parks are another growing accommodation sector. Such parks often
attract older renters who may be financially vulnerable and seeking an alternative
to a retirement village. Our previous work has identified a range of potential
industry wide issues that may adversely affect residents’ health and safety, as well
as presenting potential financial harm and detriment to renters. Central to these
concerns is the use of unfair or prohibited contract terms in site agreements by
some industry participants and a lack of transparency around fees and charges
and rights or obligations on ending an agreement.
We will conduct further research to better understand these issues, engage with
industry leaders to encourage better service delivery and intervene where
appropriate. We will also assist older, financially disadvantaged residents living in
retirement housing through the state-wide Retirement Housing Assistance and Advocacy Program (RHAAP) to help individual residents get the advice and support
they need. We will take enforcement action against systemic or egregious non-compliance by park operators.
Specialist Disability Accommodation presenting risk to residents with diverse needs
Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) providers have specific legislative
obligations under residential tenancy laws, aimed at providing additional
protections for residents of this type of housing. Where providers engage in poor
conduct and do not comply with the law, these residents can be at greater risk of
financial, health or other serious harms.
We will support residents and their representatives by raising awareness of SDA
rights and protections and where to go for help. If we identify systemic or egregious
non-compliance, we will address that behaviour and involve other relevant
regulators as needed. Where we identify opportunities to improve services,
communication, and responses for SDA residents, we will work with key stakeholders
to support those enhancements. We will also work closely with partner agencies to
monitor and address issues and trends as they arise.
Supporting Victorian communities impacted by emergencies
Like all Victorian government agencies, Consumer Affairs Victoria is committed to
supporting Victorians impacted by emergencies. While emergencies often bring out
the best in our communities, sadly they are sometimes an opportunity for fraudsters
to take advantage of people experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage or to prey
on the kindness of those wanting to help.
Outreach services (including program funding) to support recovery initiatives
Emergencies such as floods or bushfires cause significant trauma for people and
communities impacted. They can cause widespread damage to and loss of housing
and result in complex financial issues for people affected, including insurance
issues, loss of income, mortgage or rental stress, loss of possessions. Communities
often show extraordinary resilience in the face of and after emergencies, but they
also need services and supports to ensure a successful recovery.
We will continue to administer additional Victorian Government funding to agencies
delivering financial counselling and renter services to those impacted by the
October 2022 floods, including through a pilot program to provide integrated
support to affected renters. This pilot will assist Victorians by providing access to
legal, financial counselling and social support services.
We will also focus on streamlining our outreach services so renters impacted by
flood events receive immediate, tailored, and long-lasting support without having to
navigate multiple layers of bureaucracy. This support will aim to achieve better
housing and life outcomes, including by reducing eviction rates (and associated
social disadvantage like homelessness).
Fake tradies that target residents and businesses when people are most vulnerable
Emergencies often require residents and homeowners to take immediate action to
fix their homes or arrange other, similar work. When demand for repairs is high and
urgent, and access to skilled tradespeople is limited, ‘fake tradies’ can see an
opportunity to fleece consumers by offering to do maintenance work, usually for
cash, before disappearing with the money leaving unfinished or substandard work,
if they start work at all.
We will continue to provide education and support for residents affected by
emergencies and will respond swiftly to information or complaints about fake
tradies, referring serious matters to Victoria Police when appropriate.
Fundraising activities that don't comply with relevant laws and misuse donated monies
Genuine fundraising activities are a great way to quickly raise money to help
communities hit hard by emergencies. Unfortunately, as with ‘fake tradies’, fake
fundraisers can see emergencies as a prime opportunity to prey on the generosity
of the public who are keen to help by donating money, usually online. Not only is
such conduct illegal, it also diverts much-needed donations away from legitimate
We will actively monitor fundraising activities for impacted communities to identify
practices such as misleading claims, unregistered fundraisers, or misappropriation
of funds where proceeds are not distributed to beneficiaries. Where we receive
reports of illegal fundraising, we will act in collaboration with our regulatory
partners and may also refer matters to other law enforcement agencies for
investigation and prosecution.