Our achievements

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Our achievements are presented under each of our outcomes, including data on our outputs and case studies highlighting our work.

A key to achieving a fair and competitive marketplace is ensuring businesses comply with consumer laws. We focus on achieving high levels of business compliance by working with relevant industry bodies and other partners. We continue to support businesses to be compliant by giving them information and resources. Under our integrated, risk-based approach to compliance, we act quickly against businesses and organisations that are causing the most harm, to protect consumers before there is significant detriment.

Underquoting

Hoskins Maroondah and its Director were ordered to pay $860,000 in fines, $29,550 compensation to two vendors, and $10,000 in costs. The agency was also ordered to publish adverse publicity notices about its illegal conduct, and to implement a three-year compliance program, which included training agency staff about their legal obligations under the Australian Consumer Law and appointing a compliance officer to ensure the program was effectively designed, delivered and maintained.

Unlicensed motor car trading and auction houses

Our compliance and investigations activities led to the conviction of four individuals involved in illegal motor car trading. Our investigation found that all four individuals had been on-selling cars bought at auction houses to unsuspecting consumers. In March 2020, all four individuals were convicted and financial penalties handed down, with fines ranging from $12,500 to $30,000, as well as legal costs.

Making it easier to comply

myCAV is our online portal that allows Victorian businesses to apply for a licence or registration and manage their obligations, with instantaneous updates and lodgements. Following the successful implementation of myCAV for incorporated associations, estate agents, rooming house operators, owners corporation managers and conveyancers, the system was further expanded in October 2019 to manage fundraising registrations.

In 2020-21, myCAV will be expanded to support the Professional Engineers' Registration Scheme.

Towards zero defalcations

Misuse of trust funds, are a significant threat to the stability of the real estate industry and the safety of consumers.

We introduced a pilot program for new ways of detecting non-compliance and leveraged process improvement outcomes to reduce the length of defalcation investigations.

As at 30 June 2020, we saw a 38 per cent reduction in the average age of defalcation investigations, compared to the previous year.

Professional Engineers' Registration Scheme

The Professional Engineers' Registration Scheme is designed to ensure that highly-qualified and experienced engineers develop and oversee Victoria's most important projects - including the Metro Tunnel, West Gate Tunnel and Level Crossing Removal projects.

Despite the complex nature of engineering work and the pivotal role engineers play in ensuring public safety, many engineers are currently not required to hold a formal registration or a licence as many other professionals are.

For more information on these case studies, see pages 11 - 12 of the Annual Report 2019-20 (PDF, 781KB).

Enforcement actions

We took a range of enforcement actions in 2019-20. Actions completed or in progress as at 30 June 2020 are outlined in the tables on pages 13-15 of the Annual Report 2019-20 (PDF, 781KB).

Registers we administer

We administer the following registers:

  • Estate agents
  • Motor car traders
  • Incorporated associations
  • Co-operatives
  • Fundraisers
  • Second-hand dealers and pawnbrokers
  • Patriotic funds
  • Limited partnerships
  • Conveyancers
  • Owners corporation managers
  • Retirement villages
  • Funeral service providers
  • Sex work service providers (licensees)
  • Sex work brothel managers
  • Rooming house operators

For more details, see the table on page 16 of the Annual Report 2019-20 (PDF, 781KB).

We empower Victorians to exercise their consumer rights by providing information and support. We continue to work with partner organisations to improve our services, and to target groups with specialised information needs.

Know your rights as Victorians adapt to coronavirus

We responded by alerting consumers via our website to be vigilant, providing advice on avoiding scams and directing consumers to our page dedicated to reporting scams. Our website also advised consumers not to pay exorbitant amounts to people reselling hygiene and other products, resulting from the panic buying in March and April of 2020.

We published information online about the rights and responsibilities of Victorians impacted by state-mandated Stay at Home restrictions, including rights relating to rental arrangements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Urgent response group

In March 2020, Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand (senior officers from consumer affairs agencies across Australia and New Zealand) implemented a coronavirus (COVID-19) Urgent Response Group (URG) to coordinate regulatory responses to consumer issues resulting from the pandemic.

We played a critical role in the URG's operations by providing information on how coronavirus (COVID-19) was impacting Victorian consumers and businesses, and quick identification of emerging issues. We shared intelligence on businesses of national interest to inform regulatory responses by Australian Consumer Law (ACL) regulators, worked with other jurisdictions to ensure consistent messaging for consumers, and provided input into the development of industry guidance, such as the best practice guidance for the travel industry.

Ballarat GovHub

The Ballarat GovHub will be an integrated public sector workplace, as part of the Victorian Government's commitment to invest in regional Victoria. Our Information and Dispute Services Centre (IDSC) will be formally established as part of Ballarat GovHub in April 2021, with extensive planning and staged implementation underway, to minimise disruption to service delivery and our people.

We have maintained quality customer service, and minimised the disruption of this transition, by setting up a Ballarat-based staging post to support a phased transfer of function and roles, prior to the formal transition to the Ballarat GovHub.

Financial Counselling Program

In 2019-20, the Financial Counselling Program supported 25,560 Victorians with confidential financial counselling support.

We expanded our capabilities in January 2020, mobilising resources and staff expeditiously, to provide timely support to Victorians impacted by bushfires in the Outer Gippsland and Ovens and Murray service areas.

We also increased funding for specialist family violence financial counsellors in response to the 2015-16 Royal Commission into Family Violence. 3,439 Victorians accessed the specialised family violence financial counselling service in 2019-20.

For more information on these case studies, see pages 17 - 19 of the Annual Report 2019-20 (PDF, 781KB).

As the Victorian regulator of rental laws, we work to achieve fair and safe rental housing. This includes increased collaboration with partners so we can continue to improve our understanding of the needs of a modern market and make positive changes across the sector.

Supporting tenancies through the coronavirus pandemic

New temporary laws were introduced during the year to protect Victorian tenants from the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The laws implement a moratorium on evictions (except in specified circumstances), suspend rent increases, and establish a new dispute resolution process for residential tenancies. The laws also provide for tenants to end a tenancy early in cases of severe hardship and to be exempt from paying lease break fees in these cases. Tenants experiencing family violence can terminate their tenancies and apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a tenancy agreement on the same terms. Listings on residential tenancies databases are prohibited for payment breaches due to coronavirus (COVID-19) related financial hardship.

To complement the legislative measures, rent relief grants are available to eligible tenants experiencing coronavirus (COVID-19) related financial hardship and who have reached an agreement regarding rent reduction with their landlord. Land tax relief is also available through the State Revenue Office for landlords.

At 30 June 2020, over 16,900 rent reduction agreements were registered with us, with an average 27 per cent reduction in weekly rent payable. More than 5,400 disputes between landlords and tenants were resolved, and over 2,000 matters were referred to VCAT for resolution. In addition, over 1,600 matters were referred to the scheme's Chief Dispute Resolution Officer with more than 400 of these matters completed through alternate dispute resolution.

Residential tenancies reform

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 (Amendment Act) passed the Parliament in September 2018, with a package of more than 130 reforms focused on strengthening renters' rights.

Implementation of the reforms commenced with early reforms including the introduction of long-term leases, an electronic 'red book' and limiting rent increases to once every 12 months for rented premises.

Laws making it easier for tenants to keep pets have already come into effect. Landlords may now only refuse permission for pets with approval from VCAT.

Victorian Property Fund

In 2019-20 the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) received a grant of $175,385 to carry out professional development training for estate agents, helping to build their knowledge and understanding of tenancy laws and regulations. The training covers a range of consumer-protection related topics, including reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and best-practice methods for property managers to support tenants experiencing family violence.

We managed 19 VPF grants in 2019-20 for community housing organisations (CHOs), totalling $58.2 million. VPF housing grants help fund CHOs carry out social housing development projects that increase the number of safe and affordable housing units available for low income and disadvantaged persons. VPF housing grants also enable CHOs to build to a higher environmental standard, reducing utility bills and increasing thermal comfort for tenants.

For more information on these case studies, see pages 20 - 23 of the Annual Report 2019-20 (PDF, 781KB).