Page 1734 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 4 May 2005

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items to distribute wise consumer messages. It has also taken its services directly to the community and to consumers at shopping centres and has run a series of successful stalls at each of the town centres.

The office has also worked assiduously to strengthen its relationships with the key stakeholders of the office, including the Consumer Law Centre, the Motor Trades Association, the Australian Hotels Associations, ClubsACT, the Real Estate Institute of the ACT and the Australian Federal Police. The very successful and innovative priority 15 and infield education services programs are two activities that the office takes to local businesses to ensure that they are properly informed of the best ways to deal with customer misunderstandings and problems.

The office recognises that there are times when members of the community must receive assistance to resolve problems and complaints. However, the office also realises that many disputes can be avoided by empowering consumers with clear and simple guidelines for sensible and informed purchasing decisions. The office takes its educational services to schools, senior citizen groups, the Canberra Institute of Technology and business forums.

Strategic use is made of the media to report high-profile matters and to achieve public information and education. The Commissioner for Fair Trading has appeared on 666 ABC to address and discuss topical consumer issues. Over the past couple of years, the office has mounted a concerted effort, in cooperation with the police, against drink-spiking. This program has involved both messages to the general community and the provision of point-of-sale material to entertainment venues and liquor retailers.

The office also prepares publications and newsletters that are regularly issued to its regulated industries. These bulletins address detailed issues and general topics that affect specific industries. Subjects featured include legislative changes, contemporary problems, national and international trends, and case studies and prosecutions that are relevant and interesting to local traders.

The Office of Fair Trading will build on its successes and strengths to continue to promote consumer and business confidence by providing effective consumer affairs information and education. Strong and clear messages designed to prevent consumer problems from occurring will be relayed to the community.

Dispute resolution services will be further developed to achieve rapid and inexpensive closure, with the minimum possible inconvenience for both consumers and traders. Regulatory regimes will be further refined and enhancements such as electronic lodgement of data and online data verification are being scoped and evaluated. These improvements will be of great benefit to individuals and organisations that fall under the office’s regulatory umbrella.

The office will continue to promote personal and community safety by educating the community about safe products and the proper use and supervision of many common household items. The rigorous enforcement of product safety with retailers will also minimise the sale of unsuitable and dangerous items.

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