Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 April 2005 2005) . . Page.. 1468 ..
• recognises the achievements of the Office of Fair Trading and acknowledges the important contribution made by the Office to the wellbeing of the Canberra community.
Mr Speaker, it will be five years in July since the Office of Fair Trading was formed by the amalgamation of the Consumer Affairs Bureau, the Liquor and Adult Services Section and the Agent Services Section. The office was formed to harness the combined resources of three separate areas that, in the main, undertook the complementary and interdependent functions of licensing, regulation, and consumer and trader education. The approaching milestone and the office’s recent regulatory enforcement and educational activities warrant special mention in this place.
The office’s primary role as an industry regulator sees it administer 20 pieces of legislation and provide education and consumer advice services in respect of the ACT’s fair trading laws. It undertakes this work under the banner of promoting consumer confidence. To support and complement its regulatory activities, the office proactively undertakes consumer and trader education and provides advisory and dispute resolution services for consumers.
Today, I wish to highlight some of the successes the office has had with its recent enforcement activities. Before I do so, I would like to offer the following comment provided to me by the Care Financial Counselling Service, a prominent local consumer advice and support agency:
Our observation from the last term of the Assembly was that the ACT has returned to the forefront of consumer protection developments in Australia. The outcomes of renewed policy and regulatory vigour have delivered a number of benefits to Care’s clients.
Mr Speaker, members will be aware that the Commissioner for Fair Trading recently used, for the first time, his powers to name a trader who was engaging in conduct concluded to be detrimental to consumers. That trader was whitegoods repairer Trevor Karlsson. This action was taken after exhaustive investigation work by officers within the office’s advice and complaint unit and the enforcement and litigation unit.
The creation of the enforcement and litigation unit within the office has been instrumental in enabling the commissioner to pursue significantly more matters by way of both civil proceedings in the courts and other regulatory law enforcement measures. The re-availability of in-house legal advice to the staff of the office has not only assisted with the more complex matters but also had measurable improvements in the quality of the advice that has been given to consumers and traders.
In addition to the Karlsson matter, the commissioner has, by court action or otherwise, obtained in the past 12 to 18 months successful outcomes for a large number of consumers. This includes obtaining a declaration from the Supreme Court in respect of a matter related to Bodyworks gyms on behalf of 15 consumers. At this very moment, a total of $5,500 is being returned to 15 consumers who were victims of unlawful fitness service contracts. The Supreme Court declaration also clarifies other consumer rights under the fitness industry code of practice.