This submission responds primarily to the proposed improvements relating to consumer protection, in particular, the proposals to:
- Improve existing advocacy and support services for individual consumers;
- Establish a consumer representative body to address systemic consumer building issues; and
- Establish a consumer reference group or advisory mechanism.
We also comment on the proposal for a tool to develop quality, insurance arrangements and the approach to dispute resolution, from a consumer protection perspective.
We warmly welcome the recognition in the consultation paper of the role both individual assistance services and systemic consumer advocacy can play in supporting a robust building system in Victoria. The recognition of the value of systemic advocacy is supported by various reports from the Productivity Commission which have referred to the important role consumer advocacy bodies can play by injecting consumer viewpoints into the policy making process. Referring to the ‘free rider’ problem,the Productivity Commission has concluded that there are net benefits from the provision of additional taxpayer resources for consumer advocacy.
The value of individual assistance services was also clearly recognised by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. The Final Report acknowledged the asymmetry of knowledge and power between consumers and service providers and recognised that many disputes are resolved with the assistance of a legal adviser or financial counsellor.
While disputes systems such as Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria are designed without the need for legal assistance, there will always be some more vulnerable complainants who will require assistance from an advocate.
Furthermore, the experience of advocates when assisting their clients through such forums can inform opportunities for their continuous improvement.
Read our full submission (PDF).210426 Submission – Vic Building Reform