Submission: Submission to the Victorian Government’s consultation on the domestic building consumer protection framework

Broadly, this submission:

  • argues that the nature of domestic building transactions mean that specialised and strengthened consumer protections are required;
  • recommends that the entire consumer protection framework for domestic building needs overhaul, small reform at the margins will not be sufficient to achieve necessary consumer protections;

Regarding the registration and enforcement of builders, we recommend:

  • that a detailed review of sanctions and enforcement activity undertaken by the Building Practitioners Board is necessary to ensure the enforcement process provides adequate disincentives to misconduct and encourages a high standard in the industry;
  • that information on enforcement activity undertaken against builders by Consumer Affairs Victoria be publicly reported fully;
  • that the Building Act be amended to give the Building Practitioners Board the power to order rectification or compensation for deficient work;
  • that, where a person applies for a licence after previously having it cancelled, the Building Practitioners Board should be required to presume that the applicant is not of good character unless proven otherwise;
  • that the Building Practitioner’s Board should also be free to impose conditions on a builder’s licence.

Regarding the institutional framework, we

  • believe that it would be reasonable for consumers to question the integrity and effectiveness of the Building Commission and recommend that the Government  review the governance model and consider a complete restructure to ensure that identified concerns cannot be repeated;
  • believe that the membership requirements of the Building Practitioner’s Board could lead to regulatory capture, and the Building Act 1993 should be amended to reduce this risk;
  • question the need for the Building Practitioner’s Board to investigate complaints by hearing (rather than by simply considering written submissions) and that the Government examine how commonly such hearings occur, whether they seem necessary, and how hearings are conducted;
  • have concerns that the current regulatory framework could allow the work of surveyors to be compromised by conflicts of interest, and recommend changes to the way that surveyors are assigned to jobs. We also support the recommendations of the Auditor-General regarding improvements to how the Building Commission monitors surveyors;
  • Believe the current arrangement where Building Advice and Conciliation Victoria is run by two different agencies will lead to confusion and waste. We recommend the Government consider whether the multiple agency approach is necessary;

Regarding dispute resolution processes, we believe that the current system of voluntary conciliation, and dispute resolution through VCAT where conciliation fails is insufficient. We recommend that the government improve the dispute resolution system to ensure that it is

  • mandatory for builders;
  • free for consumers;
  • accessible; and
  • empowered to make binding determinations.

We also recommend that the Government consider the need to fund a specialised consumer advocacy service for building consumers, given the significant imbalance between the resources of builders and consumers.

Regarding Domestic Building Insurance, we recommend that the current Queensland scheme operated by the Queensland Building Services Authority (QBSA) should be adopted in Victoria.

To read our full submission, please click: Submission to the Victorian Government’s consultation on the domestic building consumer protection framework.

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