I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs on the subject of the Australian Consumers Association.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Australian Consumers Association, which is the name behind the well-known organisation Choice, has undertaken a report which is entitled 'Good practice in consumer protection enforcement'. Of the 10 jurisdictions in which it was able to rate them, South Australia was in the bottom four and was listed in Band C as below standard. The report had to say a couple of things, and I will quote directly from it, under enforcement outcomes:
...we sought information on the number of enforcement outcomes in the high risk consumer protection areas of misleading conduct, credit and product safety and for motor vehicles and weights and measures. Unfortunately, the SA OCBA did not provide us with any data.
It goes on to state that in relation to consumer involvement 'there is no indication of public input being incorporated into final policy decisions'. My questions are:
1. Is the minister concerned about any of these particular criticisms?
2. Are there any of the seven recommendations in the report that the government will not accept?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy) (14:53): I thank the honourable member for her question. Indeed, Choice is an organisation which presents as the Australian Consumers Association and which assesses and compares and reviews products and offers advice to consumers through various media. During 2007-08 Choice reviewed the enforcement performance of state and federal fair trading agencies, including the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs for the period 2001-06 inclusive.
The draft of the good practice model and the performance review was presented to the Commissioner of Consumer and Business Affairs in April 2007 and, in December 2008, Choice released its final report, which incorporated the draft report and responses from each of the fair trading agencies. Choice offered four overall rating levels in the area of consumer protection enforcement: good practice, acceptable practice, below standard and unacceptable. The Office of Consumer and Business Affairs (OCBA) received a below standard rating. OCBA was considered to have an overall rating of below standard, but at the time Choice was conducting its review OCBA was actually in the process of undertaking a significant structural review and many of the areas identified in the report were also identified in that review.
These issues are currently being addressed by the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs, and a new deputy commissioner has recently been appointed. In addition, on 26 November 2008 I introduced a Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Fair Trading) Bill to the Legislative Council, and that bill provides substantial changes to the penalties and increased power to authorised officers. Consequently, we believe that the issues of concern raised in that report are well on the way to being addressed.
Wednesday 9 September 2009
In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (8 April 2009).
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy): I am advised:
The seven recommendations and good practice model contained in the Choice report have been considered by OCBA and all other fair trading agencies in Australia. Similar recommendations had already been identified by OCBA during an internal review and processes for change are in place.