The mission of Consumer Affairs Victoria is a clear one – to promote a fair and competitive Victorian marketplace.
Our approach to this mission is to ensure businesses comply with consumer laws, and empower consumers to exercise their rights.
This year, we have continued to make it easier for businesses that do the right thing, while zeroing in on those that deliberately disregard consumer laws.
We implemented a new case management system that has made it easier for estate agents to apply for a licence and keep up to date with their regulatory obligations. And we finalised new laws and administrative arrangements to end double-reporting for incorporated associations that are also registered charities.
We completed a number of important court matters, from civil cases focusing on product safety and estate agent underquoting, to criminal prosecutions of estate agents who misappropriate trust money. These cases demonstrate our increasing capability to identify, investigate and prosecute businesses that harm consumers.
We have increased our efforts to assist consumers, providing better digital information for all Victorians, while enhancing our services for those who are in vulnerable circumstances.
Our new website, responsive to all digital devices, was accessed more than 3.6 million times. And we delivered a diverse range of information campaigns targeting scammers – from raising awareness for senior Victorians through library education sessions across the state, to our Australian Tax Office scam warning, which reached an estimated audience of over 5 million people.
And we provided, through community-based service organisations, intensive assistance to over 40,500 vulnerable and disadvantaged Victorians, with funding of our tenancy and consumer advocacy services increasing by more than $1 million this year.
We also have an important role in making the private rental sector safe and fair. This year, we supported the Business Licensing Authority to implement new ‘fit and proper person’ laws requiring the licensing of all rooming house operators, with more than 860 licences approved. We continued our review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, and supported the Government to introduce in the Parliament new long-term tenancy laws to increase security for both tenants and landlords.
And the Minister approved more than $27 million in grants from the Victorian Property Fund, administered by Consumer Affairs, for 9 community housing developments providing 229 additional houses and apartments for low-income and other vulnerable Victorians.
This annual report again reflects the commitment and passion of the Consumer Affairs team to deliver high-quality and relevant services to the community. I am indebted to them for their commitment and drive to keep things fair for every Victorian.
Director, Consumer Affairs Victoria
Deputy Secretary, Regulation, Department of Justice and Regulation