Carers' guide to consumer protection
Advice for carers and care workers.
Consumer Protection (a division of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety) provides assistance and advice about the rights and responsibilities of traders and consumers under Western Australia’s consumer protection laws.
We have developed this brochure to help you protect the welfare of the people in your care.
If you are a family carer or a care worker, it is important to know where to go for information and advice if you are concerned the person you care for may be the victim of unfair trading practices, scams or unfair contracts.
The signs that a person within your care may be the victim of a scam include:
- hiding mail;
- bank transactions they can’t explain;
- toys or gifts of little or no value appearing around the house or being given away as gifts;
- the arrival of overseas mail from unknown sources;
- the arrival of bills or personal letters with incomplete or misspelt names and addresses; and
- demands for payment for work that has clearly not been done.
Tips to ensure the privacy of information
To help you keep the personal information of those within your care private and secure:
- completely destroy all discarded personal information such as bills, bank statements and credit cards;
- if you have an Enduring Power of Attorney, order a free credit report from My Credit File on the person in your care to ensure that no one is using their name to borrow money or run up debts;
- keep their credit cards, ATM cards and PIN numbers safe;
- never send money or pay fees on behalf of a person for whom you care, especially to claim a prize or lottery win;
- look out for SMS and MMS numbers that start with 19 as these are charged at premium rates (sometimes even for receiving the message) and are expensive;
- never pay an invoice or bill unless you are sure the goods or services have been ordered and received;
- register their phone number with the free ‘Do not call register’, a service provided by the Federal Government, or telephone 1300 792 958; and
- you can also remove a person’s name from a mailing list by using the letter template available on the WA Scamnet website or by calling our Contact Centre on 1300 304 054 to get a copy sent to you in the mail.
Dealing with another person’s affairs
A Power of Attorney and an Enduring Power of Attorney are legal documents where one person gives another the legal authority to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf. These documents are the same apart from the following important difference:
- A Power of Attorney is automatically cancelled if the person who gave the power becomes of unsound mind; that is, becomes legally incapacitated.
- An Enduring Power of Attorney remains legally in force, even if the person who gave the power becomes of unsound mind.
A person who holds an Enduring Power of Attorney has the same rights, on behalf of the incapable consumer, as any other consumer and can discuss private financial and legal issues with Consumer Protection.
Individuals can only make or revoke an Enduring Power of Attorney while they are still capable of making legal and financial decisions for themselves.
Even if you do not hold the Enduring Power of Attorney and suspect that a person in your care is the target of unfair trading practices, it is important you immediately advise whoever is responsible for their affairs.
Where a person is unable to give another person an Enduring Power of Attorney, the Public Trustee may be able to assist in the management of the person’s financial affairs. The Public Trustee ensures it’s clients have access to any legal service they may require.
The Public Trustee employs specialist solicitors, accountants and trust officers to represent:
- the interests of the estates under administration;
- the beneficiaries of those estates; and
- the financial affairs of those for whom the Public Trustee is appointed as administrator.
Non-legal advice can also be obtained by calling the Consumer Protection Contact Centre on 1300 304 054.
Our staff offer free conciliation and complaint handling services, and will help you with any inquiries.
Entering a contract
When any purchase is made, the parties involved enter into a contract of sale. A contract is a legal and binding promise, document or agreement between two or more people. Contracts can be verbal, written or implied by
In some circumstances the people you care for may not have the capacity to make informed decisions, particularly when purchasing goods and services. They can easily be misled or have little understanding of the documents they are asked to sign.
Although some contracts have a ‘cooling off’ period, it is still important to understand the contract before signing any documentation.
Adults are considered to have the capacity to enter into a contract if they can:
- understand the information given to them;
- make a decision based on this information, having weighed up the positive and negative consequences of the decision; and
- communicate that decision to another person.
The law presumes adults are of sound mind and have the capacity to enter into a contract, unless there is evidence this is not the case.
If a person’s capacity to enter into a contract is in question, medical and/or other evidence may be needed for a ruling to be made on the validity of a contract.
Scams, rip-offs and frauds often target the most vulnerable members of our community.
Scams can surface over the internet, by phone, through unsolicited email, mail or door to door soliciting.
There are many types of scams. The most common are:
- online shopping;
- dating and romance;
- unexpected winnings (such as fake lotteries and prize draws);
- email and text message scams, in particular phishing*;
- threatening calls;
- advance-fee frauds;
- pyramid schemes; and
- psychics, clairvoyants and other lucky charms.
As a carer or care worker, you are encouraged to forward to Consumer Protection any suspicious emails, letters, phone calls, or dubious door to door encounters that you, or those for whom you care, receive. With your
information, Consumer Protection can send an alert to other members of the public.
* Phishing is the attempt to gather private information with the intent of using it fraudulently. Do not provide information to unsolicited requests.
WA ScamNet is a service provided by Consumer Protection to help fight the growing problem of scams. The WA ScamNet website provides details of many different types of scams and has a list of those currently targeting people in Western Australia.
The website can help you recognise scams and know what to do if you suspect that you, or somebody for whom you care, is the target of a scam. It also provides links to other useful websites.
How to report a scam
You can report a scam to WA ScamNet by:
- online through the WA ScamNet website: Report a scam
- phoning the Contact Centre on 1300 304 054 for the cost of a local call anywhere in WA;
- email; and
- post (no stamp required) to:
Consumer Protection – DMIRS
Reply Paid 85406
Locked Bag 100
East Perth WA 6892
There are laws which protect you, and those you care for, when buying goods or services from door-to-door salespeople.
You have 10 business days to cancel the sale on goods or services worth more than $100.00. Your cancelling rights must be set out in the contract.
The salespeople are only allowed to visit you at certain times, unless they have an appointment.
Permitted hours for door-to-door sales are:
- Weekdays: 9am to 6pm
- Saturdays: 9am to 5pm
- Sundays and public holidays: not at all.
To find out more about the laws on door-to-door selling call our Contact Centre on 1300 304 054.
Useful publications and contact numbers
Consumer Protection produces a range of publications, educational material and guides for consumers and traders. Copies are available on Consumer Protection’s website or by calling the Contact Centre on 1300 304 054.
Smart Choice: A consumer guide for Western Australians 50+
The publication Smart Choice 50+ contains a community directory to help place older Western Australians in touch with the support services they may need.
It contains a list of government agencies and peak-body community organisations that provide information, publications, advice, referrals and/or support services.
For a free copy of Smart Choice 50+ visit www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au or call the Contact Centre on 1300 304 054.
Office of the Public Advocate
The Office of the Public Advocate promotes and protects the rights, dignity and autonomy of people with decision-making disabilities to reduce their risk of neglect, exploitation and abuse.
- Level 23, David Malcolm Justice Centre, 28 Barrack St Perth WA 6000
- Telephone: 1300 858 455 or (08) 9278 7300
- TTY: users phone 13 36 77 then ask for 1300 858 455
- For an interpreter phone: 13 14 50
Public Trustee offers independent, professional trustee and asset management services to the Western Australian community.
- 553 Hay Street Perth WA 6000
- Phone: 1300 746 212
- Fax No: (08) 9222 6617
- Public Trustee email
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