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Commissioner's Column

 

Major changes are being planned at Consumer Protection over the next few months as the agency undergoes an organisational re-structure, taking on new roles and  responsibilities.

This has been prompted by the WA Government’s decision to abolish four Boards which are currently in control of the
licensing of real estate and settlement agents, land valuers, business brokers and motor vehicle dealers and repairers.  The Boards’ powers will be transferred to the
Commissioner for Consumer Protection from 1 July.

While this has meant some internal changes, we anticipate that the transition will be seamless and the changes will not affect those who have dealings with the Department. 
Consumer protections in these areas will be preserved and the requirement for licensees to comply with relevant legislation will continue.  In most cases, key contact
personnel will remain the same but, if there are any changes, relevant stakeholders will be advised.

Two advisory committees representing the real estate and motor vehicle industries will ensure that we will continue to get valuable input on any government policies and actions that may affect these areas.

Our planned re-structure will make sure that we are well placed to carry out our new responsibilities efficiently and effectively.

Recently I was a guest speaker at a seminar on “green washing” which looked at the possible misleading, or perhaps exaggerated, claims being made by businesses about their products being sustainable, environmentally-friendly or carbon-neutral.

“Green” and “clean” have become marketing buzz words with promoters of products hoping to gain advantage from the concern about climate change within the community.

It is illegal to make claims that are false or misleading and, under the new Australian
Consumer Law, businesses may be asked to provide proof of their claims, so it’s important that the marketing of products with a “green” logo or slogan is based on fact and not fiction.

In the past, Consumer Protection has taken action against companies making false claims in promoting fuel saving devices and additives. We have also received lots of enquiries from consumers about claims being made by the solar industry about potential savings in
household energy costs.

Green washing is a practice which will come under increased scrutiny by both consumers and regulators and businesses need to have the evidence to back up their claims to comply with fair trading laws and maintain their credibility with their customers.

Recently, we honoured the consumer champions in our community with the annual Consumer Protection Awards. For me, it highlighted the importance of the excellent work being carried out by
consumer advocates, community groups and other individuals and organisations – all of whom are important pieces in the consumer protection jigsaw.

The contribution from those who work on the front-line in our community is extremely valuable in the process of developing government policies and identifying emerging issues.  As regulators, we rely very much on their input.

I would like to congratulate the winners and nominees of this year’s Awards and I hope the  recognition will help highlight their  achievements and inspire others who work in this vital area.


Anne Driscoll
Commissioner for
Consumer  Protection

Page last updated on:   -  Thursday, 21 April 2011