Consumer Action has welcomed the Victorian Government plan to establish a new body to oversee and enforce regulation in the domestic building industry. Consumer Action believes the creation of the Victorian Building Authority, which will replace the Building Commission, Plumbing Industry Commission and the Architects Registration Board, represents a great opportunity to completely overhaul the industry’s consumer protection measures which have been fundamentally inadequate for a long time.
‘Earlier this year we told the Government that decisive action was necessary—that tinkering around the edges of the regulatory framework would do little to help consumers. So we’re pleased with today’s announcement which shows the Government means business,’ said Gerard Brody, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Consumer Action. ‘A strong regulator governed by an independent board can produce better outcomes compared to industries regulating themselves’.
‘Building a home is often the biggest investments a consumer will ever make, but it can be also be one of the most stressful and risky investments if they lack the expert knowledge to ensure the work is being carried out correctly, or don’t fully understand the complex contracts you sign.
‘The current system is not set up to protect consumers. Many, including the Victorian Auditor General, have cast doubt on the effectiveness of regulatory bodies, so concerns about the effectiveness of the system are widely held’.
In addition to overhauling the Building Commission and related bodies, Consumer Action has called for:
- the industry dispute resolution system to be mandatory for builders, free for consumers, and empowered to make binding determinations;
- the Government to undertake a detailed review of the enforcement framework and sanctions imposed on builders;
- the home building warranty insurance scheme to be overhauled so that it offers coverage when a builder won’t complete or repair, not only where a builder is ‘dead, disappeared or insolvent’.
‘As things stand, the conciliation for domestic building disputes is voluntary for builders and taking a matter to VCAT can cause significant time and financial problems, so consumers can be left without any real solution. A new system is desperately needed and the Government must ensure it doesn’t become beholden to vested interests in the building industry as the current model is,’ said Mr Brody.
Consumer Action looks forward to the creation of the new regime and welcomes the chance to work with the Victorian Government to ensure consumers’ interests were adequately addressed.