Consumer Affairs Victoria’s Annual Report demonstrates our achievements in promoting a fair and competitive marketplace in Victoria during 2016-17.
This year, we have focused on ensuring businesses comply with consumer laws through an increasingly intelligence-led, risk-based and outcome-focused approach to our compliance work.
We have made stopping underquoting by real estate agents a high compliance priority, with a multi-faceted approach including market monitoring, inspections, investigations, enforcement action, new legislation and information dissemination. There are positive signs of a cultural change in the industry, and an increasing recognition of the harm of this practice.
We have taken significant steps in our pursuit of a digital-first approach to delivering information to empower consumers and renters, and to provide our licensing and registration services. For example, we launched our new responsive website in June 2017 with increased accessibility for consumers and businesses, in particular for those with vision impairments or language barriers.
We also launched a new online tool to assist Victorians who are planning to build to find the right assistance. In addition, we continued the reform of our information technology systems, with the second phase of the myCAV project providing a contemporary platform for the new rooming house operator licensing scheme, and an easy online licence application process.
While our website and telephone information services meet the needs of most, it is increasingly important to make sure the most vulnerable Victorians can access information and advice to exercise their consumer rights. This year, we completed a review of our Tenancy and Consumer Program, resulting in a 30 per cent increase in funding and supporting 22 full-time equivalent tenancy workers across Victoria.
We also commenced 10 additional full-time equivalent family violence financial counsellors as part of the Government’s response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. And we have funded Justice Connect to provide a new legal service to assist building owners who cannot resolve their disputes.
We launched a number of important new services to assist Victorians. Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria was established in April 2017 to assist builders and home owners to resolve their disputes, without the cost and time often associated with courts and tribunals. To foster professionalism in the rooming house sector, we also commenced a new licensing scheme for rooming house operators, requiring anyone who owns, leases or manages a rooming house to pass a ‘fit and proper person test’.
We have continued our substantial program of legislation reviews, including an examination of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, consumer property laws and national consumer protection laws. We are indebted to the thousands of Victorians who have contributed to these reviews, which will inform the Government’s preferred reform options.
The reason we have realised these and other achievements is that every officer at Consumer Affairs Victoria has a strong belief in the value of our work in protecting Victorian consumers and renters. Their work ethic and enthusiasm for continuous improvement have enabled us to deliver a significant and important program of reform. I am indebted to my colleagues for this commitment.
Director, Consumer Affairs Victoria
Deputy Secretary, Regulation, Department of Justice and Regulation