Overview of CAV
Under the Australian Consumer Law, a person who buys goods or services for less than $40 000 or for personal or home use. Affairs Victoria (CAV) is part of the Victorian Government’s Department of Justice and Community Safety. As Victoria’s consumer affairs regulator, CAV’s role is to:
- advise and educate businesses, landlords, consumers and tenants – including vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers – about their rights, responsibilities and changes to the law;
- To make people obey a law or the terms of an agreement, using police powers or court orders. compliance with the Statutory rules made by parliament or by bodies the parliament delegates power to, for example a local council or a registration authority. See delegated legislation; statute. it administers;
- review and advise the Victorian Government on consumer legislation and industry codes;
- register and license businesses and occupations; and
- conciliate disputes between consumers and traders, and tenants and landlords.
CAV provides information and advice to businesses and consumers through its website, telephone helpline, smartphone aps, and via social media. CAV has metropolitan and regional offices (in Ballarat, Bendigo, Box Hill, Dandenong, Mildura, Morwell, Reservoir, Shepparton, Wangaratta, Warrnambool, Werribee, Wodonga and Geelong) and has a mobile Formal delivery of legal documents to a person to tell them there are court proceedings against them which they must defend, or to make sure a witness in a case knows when they have to go to court to give evidence. that regularly visits many other Victorian locations. For CAV’s contact details, see ‘Contacts’, below.
CAV is responsible for administering many Victorian Acts and regulations, including the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading A written law made by parliament. Also called an ‘Act of parliament’, ‘statute’ or legislation. 2012, Residential Tenancies Act 1997, All the property a person has, including real property and personal property. It is often used to describe property belonging to someone who has died, or the property of a bankrupt. Agents Act 1980, Conveyancers Act 2006, Owners Corporations Act 2006, Retirement Villages Act 1986, Motor Car Traders Act 1986 and Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995. CAV uses an ‘integrated compliance approach’, which means it uses a range of criminal, civil and administrative measures to address non-compliance with the laws it administers.
What can CAV do?
CAV provides information and advice
CAV’s extensive website (www.consumer.vic.gov.au) provides a vast array of resources (information, advice, checklists, videos, tips, definitions of key terms, examples of complaint letters, and letter templates) for consumers, businesses, tenants, landlords, and residents and owners of rooming houses, retirement villages and caravan parks. You can also call CAV’s helpline to receive information and advice.
CAV can help resolve a dispute
1 CAV can help you resolve the issue yourself
If you are a consumer having a dispute with a business, first try to resolve the issue yourself by directly communicating with the business. (There is a step-by-step guide on how to do this on CAV’s website.) When you write or speak to the business, or someone with the authority to represent it (e.g. a manager), explain your concerns and suggest a resolution (see ‘Self-help’ at the beginning of this chapter). Have any relevant information with you when you communicate with the business, so you can clearly state your rights and their obligations under the law.
Many complaints are resolved at this stage with the correct information. If, after following the step-by-step dispute resolution guide on CAV’s website, you are unable to resolve your dispute, you can request to use CAV’s A form of alternative dispute resolution. The parties negotiate with the help of an independent person called a conciliator. The aim is to sort out the dispute by mutual agreement, rather than having a decision made by a court or tribunal. See also arbitration; mediation; negotiation. service.
2 CAV’s dispute services
CAV’s primary dispute service is delivered by telephone with the aim of obtaining a timely resolution. In limited circumstances, a more tailored conciliation service may be offered. Conciliation is an informal process that helps you and the business to resolve a dispute by communicating, identifying the issues in dispute, and exploring options
There are criteria for assessing whether disputes are suitable for CAV’s dispute services. The key requirements include:
- the dispute must be within CAV’s The authority of a court or tribunal to hear matters brought before it, based on some factor such as area or law, amount of money claimed, or geographic area.;
- an attempt must have been made to resolve the dispute with the business;
- the dispute must not have been determined by, or be pending in, the Victorian Civil and Administrative A body set up to hear and decide disputes, usually with less formality and less strict rules of evidence than in a court proceeding. (VCAT) or the courts; and
- there must be a reasonable likelihood that the dispute A document that sets out what a person wants to happen to their money and other property after they die. be settled.
For more information about the criteria for accessing CAV’s dispute services, see CAV’s compliance policy, available on its website (www.consumer.vic.gov.au).
CAV’s conciliation service is Done by your own free will. See also community treatment order (CTO).; traders and consumers cannot be forced to participate. Also, CAV cannot make a binding A finalisation, especially a decision made by a court or tribunal to finalise (determine) a case. or force a A person or organisation directly involved in a court case. Parties include the plaintiff or applicant, the defendant, and any third party added to the action, but not independent witnesses. to accept a particular outcome (only VCAT or the courts can force a business to resolve an issue).
3 If your dispute is not resolved
If your dispute cannot be resolved by conciliation, CAV can provide information and advice on what alternative remedies you can pursue, such as:
- taking the matter to VCAT;
- lodging a complaint with the relevant industry A public official appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints against government departments and statutory authorities. A specialised ombudsman resolves consumer complaints in a particular industry, for example the banking ombudsman for the banking industry. See also statutory authority.;
- seeking legal advice.
While CAV provides extra help for consumers with a disability (see ‘Advocacy for people with a disability’, below), in most cases, it is up to the consumer to pursue alternative remedies.
VCAT has jurisdiction to determine consumer and trader disputes (ss 182, 184 ACL&FTA). For example, under the ACL&FTA (s 184(2)), VCAT can:
- refer the dispute to a mediator;
- order payment of money owed or A court order for money to be paid to someone to compensate them for a loss suffered as a result of a civil wrong or breach of contract. For example, a person who caused a serious permanent injury to another person can be ordered by the court to pay damages that compensate the injured person for their loss of income from being unable to work. See also aggravated damages; compensatory damages; general damages; liquidated damages; nominal damages; special damages.;
- vary any term of a An agreement that the law will enforce.;
- declare that a term of a contract is Having no legal effect. A void agreement has something wrong with it, so it cannot be a legally binding contract. For example, a verbal agreement to buy land would be void, because the law says those contracts have to be in writing. (including because it is an unfair contract term);
- order Carrying out the precise obligations that are set out in a contract. For example, a contract might require the sale of a piece of land. If the parties do not perform a contract a court can order specific performance. of a contract term;
- order the refund of any money paid under a contract;
- order The ending of a contract in a manner that places the parties to the contract in the position they were in before the contract existed (where restitution is possible). For example, in a rescission of a contract for the sale of a car the seller would get back the car and the buyer would get back their purchase money. See also termination. (cancellation) of a contract.
For more information about how to apply to VCAT see ‘Small claims: VCAT’s Civil Claims List’, above. For further information about VCAT processes, see Chapter 12.2: Appealing government and administrative decisions.
Remedies: Contacting an ombudsman
See Chapter 12.3: Taking a problem to an ombudsman.
Remedies: Legal advice
Free legal advice is available from community legal centres (see Chapter 2.4: Legal services that can help).
For further information on the remedies available under current laws, see Chapter 7.2: Consumer protection laws.
Intelligence (information) about bad behaviour in the market is important to CAV. It enables the agency to track emerging trends and to identify individual businesses, or problems within industry sectors, that may be causing harm to consumers.
You can report bad behaviour by filling in a complaint form (available on CAV’s website) and sending it to CAV; or, if reporting a scam, by filling in the online ‘dob in a scam’ form on CAV’s website.
CAV works closely with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, the National Indigenous Consumer Strategy reference group (of which it is a member), and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals to help resolve consumer issues, and to develop resources for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers and businesses. CAV also provides a Koori helpline service that provides specialist advice (see ‘Contacts’, below).
The Consumer Action Law Centre also offers Koori Help (https://koorihelp.consumeraction.org.au; tel: 1800 574 457).
Advocacy for people with a disability
CAV provides free, one-to-one assistance for people with a disability who need extra help with a The agreement between a landlord and a tenant for the rental of a property. issue. CAV’s advocates can:
- explain tenants’ rights and responsibilities;
- explain documents;
- negotiate with landlords and property managers;
- prepare for, and appear at, VCAT hearings.