An initiative to provide better customer service and help consumers make more informed decisions will been introduced in NSW this week but will unfairly tarnish reputable businesses, according to the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales.
The NSW Fair Trading Complaints Register which is due to come into operation on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 will provide information about businesses that are the subject of 10 or more complaints to NSW Fair Trading in a calendar month.
REINSW President John Cunningham said the Complaints Register will list businesses under their public and recognisable ‘trading’ or ‘brand’ name which means that franchises or brand co-operatives will be grouped together instead of as the individual businesses they are.
“As a result, the register will simply be full of franchises and groups who, due to the popularity of their brand and their sheer size, will almost always have 10 consumer complaints per month,” Mr Cunningham said.
“While the Real Estate Industry wholeheartedly supports the concept of a complaints register, we believe the NSW consumer watchdog has poorly executed what is essentially a good idea – a complaints register to “out” poor traders.
“NSW Fair Trading has failed consumers in the creation of this initiative and has missed an opportunity to use data in an effective way for the benefit of consumers.
“REINSW has been engaged in discussing better consumer complaint outcomes with our members and the major brands for some time now. To have this register effectively target the major brands is simply unjust and needs to be remedied urgently.
“Small businesses with exemplary records, operating under franchise or co-operative brands, will be impossible to distinguish from those who have been identified as poor traders given all businesses operating under a brand will be grouped together.
“This false and misleading information could be used to discredit businesses who demonstrate responsible business practices and, in their wake, innocent parties could be disadvantaged including consumers, employees and small business owners.
“NSW Fair Trading has been negligent and reckless to apply a product based system to the service industries of NSW, thereby unfairly discrediting good businesses and, as such, is acting as one of the worst discriminators in NSW.
“The consumer will naturally gravitate to the agent that does not appear on the register due to the misleading information provided by NSW Fair Trading.
“The issue could be simply rectified by providing accurate and helpful information to the consumer by treating businesses as individuals rather than trying to lump large groups under one umbrella.
“It is not too late to remedy this issue and REINSW calls on Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello to right this wrong and provide consumers with accurate information and to protect small businesses in NSW who may been tarnished unfairly.” Mr Cunningham said.