Consumer Affairs Victoria
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Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) is a Victorian government agency that protects and promotes the interests of consumers and is based in the Australian state of Victoria. CAV is responsible for reviewing and advising the Victorian Government on consumer legislation and industry codes; advising and educating consumers, tenants, traders and landlords on their rights, responsibilities and changes to the law; registering and licensing businesses and occupations; conciliating disputes between consumers and traders, tenants and landlords; and enforcing and ensuring compliance with consumer laws.
Consumer Affairs Victoria provides advice and assistance on matters of renting and accommodation, estate agents, building, shopping, and trading. They also license or register (in conjunction with the Business Licensing Authority) and regulate conveyancers, estate agents, introduction agents, motor car traders, owners corporation managers, prostitution service providers, travel agents, second-hand dealers, and pawnbrokers.
History and establishment
In 1965, the State Government of Victoria established a Consumer Protection Council, the first government general consumer body established in Australia 
The Consumer Protection Council was established essentially to consider issues and to advise the Government. The Council was not formally set up to handle complaints, but this became a dominant part of its work. New legislation also established in 1973 a Ministry of Consumer Affairs. This Ministry was small and was tied to the Department of Labour and Industry. They were then substantially cut by the Kennett Government and the separate Ministry for Consumer Affairs was abolished and absorbed into a new Department of Justice.
Goals and purpose
The Consumer Affairs Victoria vision is "informed and responsible consumers and traders, who know their rights and responsibilities" The goals are:
- Empower consumers
- Create a competitive, fair, and safe trading environment
- Protect vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers
- Optimise our organisational capability.
Activities and operations
A past Director of Consumer Affairs, Dr David Cousins, described the role of Consumer Affairs Victoria thus:
"Consumer Affairs has essentially three key roles. These are firstly to advise the government on the consumer policy framework and to manage the legislative and non-legislative program related to this framework. Secondly, Consumer Affairs is a significant regulator of industry conduct, monitors entry regulation in some industries, and manages guarantee funds covering residential tenancies, property services and motor car trading. Thirdly, Consumer Affairs is a major service provider. Its services include information, advice, education, complaint handling (primarily through the provision of third party conciliation and mediation services) and business registration and licensing services. Consumer Affairs is the initial entry point for all consumer enquiries from across the State..."
CAV has a number of locations in Victoria. In the CBD face-to-face services are provided at the Victorian Consumer & Business Centre. The VCBC is located at 113 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, on the corner of Little Collins Street, and is open from 8.30am-5.00pm Monday to Friday. The VCBC is a one-stop-shop for consumers and business operators offers information and advice in a friendly and informal setting. In 2007-08 there were 39,200 counter enquiries at the VCBC
The Department of Justice has regional offices throughout Victoria which offer CAV services see www.justice.vic.gov.au
In addition to being an executive in the Department of Justice, the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria is also an office holder under the Victorian Fair Trading Act 1999. The functions of the Director include the following:
- to advise persons of their rights and obligations
- to receive complaints from persons and to deal with them
- to monitor compliance with the Fair Trading act 1999
- to investigate breaches of the Fair Trading Act 1999 or under a consumer Act
- to prosecute breaches of under a consumer Act
- to educate and inform people on fair trading issues
Proposed Changes under National Reforms
The Council of Australian Governments has agreed to a range of reforms which involve the transfer of responsibilities from State Governments to the Commonwealth government or more harmonised approaches across States and Territory Governments. Those that will impact on the operations of Consumer Affairs Victoria are:
- the development of a national trade licensing system for a range of occupations including property agent occupations
- the transfer of trade measurement regulation to the Commonwealth Government
- the transfer of credit regulation to the Commonwealth Government
- the development of a new national generic consumer law
- the Commonwealth Government will assume responsibility for the making of permanent product bans and standards for product safety law
- the transfer of the responsibility for the registration of business names to the Commonwealth Government.
There are a number of related bodies within the Consumer Affairs portfolio, each established under separate legislation, but with administrative support provided by CAV..
The Consumer Credit Fund Advisory Committee - established under the Consumer Credit (Victoria) Act 1995  the Committee makes recommendations to the Minister for grants from the Fund towards research, education, advice or assistance programs.
The Estate Agents Council - established under the Estate Agents Act 1980  the Council is a ministerial advisory body, that monitors the industry and advises the Minister, in order to promote appropriate standards of conduct and competency in the real estate industry and to protect the interests the public using real estate services.
The Motor Car Traders Claims Committee - established under the Motor Car Traders Act 1986  the Committee is responsible for considering and determining claims for compensation from the Motor Car Traders Guarantee Fund.
The Prostitution Control Act Ministerial Advisory Committee - established under the Prostitution Control Act 1994  the Committee is a ministerial advisory body that advises the Minister on issues relating to the prostitution industry in Victoria.
Residential Tenancies Bond Authority - established under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 the Authority collects, holds and disburses all Victorian residential tenancy bonds. The Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria is the sole member of the RTBA.
The Funeral Industry Ministerial Advisory Council - established under the Funeral Act 2006 the Council is a ministerial advisory council that monitors the industry and advises the Minister.
- Consumer Affairs Victoria 2007 Lecture: Consumer Affairs; Past, Present and Future Lecture presented in Honour of Mr Norm Geschke OBE by Dr David Cousins, Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria, 13 March 2007.
- Consumer Affairs Victoria Annual Report 2007-2008, pages 4-5, published by the Victorian Government Printer, October 2008.
- Consumer Affairs Victoria Annual Report 2007-2008 page 86, published by the Victorian Government Printer, October 2008.
- Department of Justice website: "Our Executive". Retrieved on 19 April 2009.
- Victoria Government Legislation website, Fair Trading Act 1999, sections 99-100.
- Council of Australian Governments' Meeting 3 July 2008 Report of the Business and Regulation and Competition Working Group, retrieved on 19 July 2009.
- Victorian Government Legislation website, Consumer Credit (Victoria) Act 1995, section 86AC.
- Victorian Government Legislation website, Estate Agents Act 1980, section 6.
- Victorian Government Legislation website, Motor Car Traders Act 1986, section 57.
- Victorian Government Legislation website, Prostitution Control Act 1994, section 67.
- Victorian Government Legislation website, Residential Tenancies Act 1997, section 429.
- Residential Tenancies Bond Authority Annual Report for the year 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008. Published by the Victorian Department of Justice, October 2008, p 5.
- Victorian Government Legislation website, Funeral Act 2006, section 4.