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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (13 March) . . Page.. 1105 ..

Mr Stanhope

: The answer to the member's question is as follows:

1. From the Consumer Law Centre's launch on 30 January 2003 to 20 March 2003, the Consumer Law Centre had approximately 15 active case-files. In addition, the Consumer Law Centre receives an average of 15 to 20 requests for advice each week.

2. None of the active case-files in the legal service directly related to the January 2003 bushfires. A number of the requests for advice have been prompted by the bushfires, but it is not possible to give a precise number. The response to Question four gives an indicative list of action taken by the Consumer Law Centre in reponse to the bushfires.

3. All 15 case-files are still pending.

4. The Consumer Law Centre has not been operational for enough time to develop a profile of the type requested. In no particular order or rank of importance, the issues being considered by the Consumer Law Centre's key issues have been:

Establishing contact with agencies such as the Office of Fair Trading, ASIC, the ACCC, Legal Aid, ACTCOSS, the Magistrates Court, the Essential Services Consumer Council, as well as community legal centres and other related bodies. In doing so, promotion of the existence and the function of the Consumer Law Centre has been a priority.

In conjunction with Care Inc. the Consumer Law Centre organised and hosted an Alternative Dispute Resolution Forum. The forum brought key persons from the main industry-based dispute resolution schemes in Australia to Canberra. The forum was also the first coordinated event of this type held in the ACT. The forum was attended by consumer advocates, law students and academics, bushfire victims, as well as staff from the ACCC, ASIC and the ACT Office of Fair Trading.

The Consumer Law Centre's solicitor also prepares articles for publications. An article warning of misconduct by mortgage brokers was recently published in the Mortgage Professional Magazine.

There are, of course, the major case-files, which include matters such as the activities of a home security company, and a matter involving an unsolicited credit limit increase.

Provision of advice, either over the phone or on site. Many referrals to the Consumer Law Centre are being made by financial counsellors, the Office of Fair Trading, Legal Aid and other agencies.

The Consumer Law Centre, together with Care Inc, has responded to the January Bushfire crisis with:

a. The publication and distribution of Facts sheets on rights and options on matters such as insurance, home loans and personal finance.

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