A modern and effective consumer law framework

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To be an effective regulator, our consumer law framework must continue to evolve with the changing market. We lead and participate in policy and legislative reviews and work in partnership with other regulators and organisations, to ensure our consumer law framework supports a fair and competitive marketplace.

The Victorian Government introduced new laws banning cash for scrap metal when reforms to the Second Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 1989 and the Second Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Regulations 2018 came into effect in May 2018.

We completed our extensive review of a number of consumer property law Acts, which had been underway since 2015. In addition, a significant and ambitious forward program of research and policy work for consumer affairs agencies over the next four years was endorsed following the Australian Consumer Law review.

We continued our work to better protect residents in high-rise apartment buildings from unruly short-stay parties.

We are reviewing the recommendations of the Parliamentary inquiry into fuel prices in regional Victoria and undertook significant activity in reviewing the retirement housing sector.

The Victorian Government established the Consumer Policy Research Centre, dedicated to provide a compelling and expert consumer voice.

  

Organised crime infiltration can cause significant harm to an occupation or industry, and to the broader community. We recognise that the scrap metal industry is one that is susceptible.

The Victorian Government introduced new laws banning cash for scrap metal when reforms to the Second Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 1989 and the Second Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Regulations 2018 came into effect in May 2018.

We worked closely with key industry stakeholders, the Australian Metal Recycling Industry Association (AMRIA), the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), and Victoria Police, to develop the reforms.

Second-hand dealers are now banned from paying or receiving cash payments for scrap metal, or dealing in unidentified scrap motor vehicles without police authorisation, and must keep detailed records of all transactions involving scrap metal.

Police have new search and entry powers that will allow them to enter business and storage premises without a warrant if they reasonably believe that dealing in scrap metal is taking place.

The new Regulations require second-hand dealers who deal in scrap metal to register as second-hand dealers through the Business Licensing Authority (BLA) by 1 September 2018. The BLA will assess registration applicants to determine whether they are suitable to be registered.

New offences have been introduced, with penalties of more than $30,000 for buying or selling scrap metal for cash. Police will be able to issue on-the-spot fines to scrap metal dealers not adhering to the new laws, with penalties of more than $1,900.

Fuel is an essential item for most families and businesses, and high prices cause significant pressure on already strained budgets. Regional Victorians feel the impact of high fuel prices even more because they travel long distances to access services and have fewer options to purchase fuel compared with Melbourne residents.

The final report of the Parliamentary inquiry into fuel prices in regional Victoria was tabled in February 2018. The committee focused on how to improve competition between fuel retailers in regional Victoria, such as the use of fuel price comparison apps and websites and the removal of barriers for businesses entering new markets.

It made three recommendations to increase fuel price transparency in Victoria. These are that the Victorian Government:

  • conduct a public awareness campaign in regional Victoria to encourage the use of fuel price apps
  • support the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria to improve the coverage of its fuel price app
  • review planning policies to encourage new service stations in regional markets with low competition.

The Government’s response to the final report was tabled in Parliament on 20 August 2018 and supports each recommendation in full, as a means of enabling regional Victorian residents to make informed decisions about when and where to purchase fuel. A public awareness campaign is planned to commence in September 2018.

Work in this area follows the introduction of new Regulations in 2016 requiring Victorian service stations to only advertise the full price of petrol to motorists on price boards, and remove the advertisement of ‘docket-discount’ fuel prices.

This improves transparency for Victorian motorists, ensuring they are confident that the price on the board is the most they will pay at the pump.

Victoria’s tourism sector is worth more than $25 billion and employs over 200,000 people.

The sector is supported by an estimated 170,000 short-stay properties in Victoria. The vast majority of short-stay owners, and their guests, do the right thing. However, some short-stay guests have hosted unruly parties and damaged properties.

New laws have been developed to protect residents of high-rise apartments from unruly parties in short-stay accommodation. The new laws propose to address this problem by making short-stay providers in high-rise buildings responsible for the behaviour of their short-stay residents.

Owners corporations and residents in high-rise buildings will be permitted to take action for repeated breaches of prescribed short-stay conduct rules.

The Owners Corporations Amendment (Short-Stay Accommodation) Act 2018 received the Royal Assent on 14 August 2018 and will commence by 1 February 2019.

The Australian Consumer Law was reviewed in 2016–17 for the first time since it was introduced in 2011. The comprehensive and wide-ranging review was conducted by Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand, a forum of senior state and territory consumer affairs officials.

Commonwealth, state and territory consumer affairs ministers received the final report on 31 March 2017. It drew from more than 260 submissions and face-to-face meetings with over 130 stakeholders across Australia.

Ministers from across the country endorsed a package of 19 legislative proposals to strengthen and clarify the law. These range from increasing the maximum penalties available for breaching the law, to making it easier for consumers to get refunds for faulty products.

Ministers also endorsed a significant and ambitious forward program of research and policy work for consumer affairs agencies over the next four years, including examining how an unfair trading prohibition could be adopted in Australia.

The program will also include a project, commencing in 2018–19, to assess whether changes to the law are needed in relation to not-for-profit fundraising.

We completed our extensive review of a number of consumer property law Acts, underway since 2015. The laws under review were the Sale of Land Act 1962, Estate Agents Act 1980, Conveyancers Act 2006 and the Owners Corporations Act 2006. Each affects the way people buy, sell and manage their property.

The review was a great opportunity for industry and consumers to participate in a wide-ranging examination of laws affecting the most significant lifetime transaction for many Victorians. It provided an avenue for Victorians to comment on how these laws are working and where improvements could be made.

Stakeholder feedback was very strong, with more than 200 submissions and comments received on the three issues papers released during the first stage of the review. The second stage involved the release of three options papers, with over 140 stakeholders providing comment.

We have carefully reviewed stakeholder feedback as we develop reform proposals for Government’s consideration.

Reforms to sale of land laws have been finalised with the Sale of Land Amendment Bill 2018 introduced into Parliament and second read in the Legislative Assembly on 22 August 2018.

  

The Victorian Government is committed to ensuring the regulatory framework in the Retirement Villages Act 1986 strikes a balance between supporting growth and innovation in the sector and protecting the rights and interests of retirement village residents.

This year, we completed a review of the Retirement Villages (Contractual Arrangements) Regulations 2006, which resulted in the Minister remaking the Regulations as the Retirement Villages (Contractual Arrangements) Regulations 2017.

We also undertook a review of internal dispute resolution procedures under the Retirement Villages Act 1986 as well as completing a review of a number of key aspects of the Act as part of the consumer property law review.

The Standing Committee on Legal and Social Issues reported on its inquiry into the sector in March 2017 and made 15 recommendations. In tabling its response to the Inquiry’s report in September 2017, the Victorian Government has supported, supported in principle or committed to further investigate 12 of the 13 recommendations directed to the Government.

We are leading much of the work required to implement these recommendations, a number of which will be considered as part of a review of the Retirement Villages Act 1986.

The Victorian Government introduced the Conveyancer (Qualifications and Experience) Regulations 2018, as part of four new sets of regulations for conveyancers that came into effect on 26 May 2018.

These Regulations introduce a new qualification for eligibility for a conveyancer’s licence, and expand the range of legal practitioner with whom a prospective conveyancer can gain their work experience.

The new qualification is the Advanced Diploma of Conveyancing from the Business Services Training Package. The Advanced Diploma of Conveyancing comprises 18 units of competency and replaces the current qualification for a licence, which is eight units.

This new qualification provides further assurance to Victorians that conveyancing matters are handled appropriately.

The other three sets of regulations introduced were the Conveyancers (Fees) Regulations 2018, Conveyancers (Professional Conduct) Regulations 2018, and Conveyancers (Trust Account and General) Regulations 2018.

The Victorian Government has established a new research centre, the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC). CPRC was launched in August 2017 as an independent and not-for-profit centre to research issues important to Victorian consumers, and inform the development of policy and services.

The CPRC will investigate changes in the housing market, dispute resolution and breaches of consumer law, and place Victoria at the forefront of consumer research. It will deliver evidence-based policy research that focuses on:

  • developing an annual consumer index
  • exploring areas of concern around consumer property law, continuing the efforts of current reforms
  • improving access to and effectiveness of the dispute resolution process for consumers
  • improving consumer choice and aiding consumer decision-making
  • the digital economy, including the online marketplace and consumer data collection, sharing and use.

To deliver this, in addition to its own research program, the CPRC launched its Research Pathways Program in February 2018.

This program provides $220,000 in funding annually, to support collaborative consumer-focused research across government, industry, the community and academia. The program will develop the evidence base for policy and practice changes in the CPRC priority research areas.

CPRC also released its first research report in March 2018, Five Preconditions of Effective Consumer Engagement – a conceptual framework. The report provides guidance to policymakers and business on how to enact changes to enhance consumer choice and decision-making.

Regulations commenced in 2017–18

Name Date commenced
Conveyancers (Fees) Regulations 2018 26 May 2018
Conveyancers (Professional Conduct) Regulations 2018 26 May 2018
Conveyancers (Qualifications and Experience) Regulations 2018 26 May 2018
Conveyancers (Trust Account and General) Regulations 2018 26 May 2018
Domestic Building Contracts Regulations 2017 1 August 2017
Estate Agents (Professional Conduct) Regulations 2018 26 May 2018
Estate Agents (General, Accounts and Audit) Regulations 2018 20 May 2018
Retirement Villages (Contractual Arrangements) Regulations 2017 30 July 2017
Retirement Villages (Infringements) Regulations 2017 1 December 2017
Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers (General, Exemption and Record-Keeping) Regulations 2018 22 May 2018
Sex Work Amendment Regulations 2017 1 October 2017
Subordinate Legislation (Owners Corporation Regulations 2007) Extension Regulations 2017 4 December 2017
Subordinate Legislation (Residential Tenancies Regulations 2008) Extension Regulations 2018 10 June 2018
Veterans (Patriotic Funds) Regulations 2017 1 November 2017

Regulations revoked in 2017–18

Name Date commenced
Conveyancers (Professional Conduct and Trust Account and General) Regulations 2008 26 May 2018
Conveyancers (Professional Conduct and Trust Account and General) Amendment Regulations 2010 26 May 2018
Conveyancers (Professional Conduct and Trust Account and General) Amendment (Infringements) Regulations 2010 26 May 2018
Conveyancers (Professional Conduct and Trust Account and General) Amendment Regulations 2015 26 May 2018
Conveyancers (Qualifications, Experience and Fees) Regulations 2008  26 May 2018
Conveyancers (Qualifications, Experience and Fees) Amendment Regulations 2012 26 May 2018
Conveyancers (Qualifications, Experience and Fees) Amendment Regulations 2016 26 May 2018
Estate Agents (Professional Conduct) Regulations 2008 26 May 2018
Estate Agents (General, Accounts and Audit) Regulations 2008 20 May 2018
Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers (Exemption) Regulations 2008 22 May 2018
Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Amendment Regulations 2009 22 May 2018
Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers (Exemption) Amendment Regulations 2011 22 May 2018
Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Amendment (Infringements) Regulations 2012 22 May 2018
Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers (Exemption) Amendment Regulations 2016 22 May 2018
Veterans (Patriotic Funds) Regulations 2008 1 November 2017