The NSW Fair Trading Complaints Register comes into effect this week but there are concerns within the real estate industry that it will unfairly tarnish reputable businesses.
The initiative is designed to provide better customer service and to help consumers make better, more informed decisions; however businesses are concerned about their reputations.
The Complaints Register will provide information about businesses that are subject to 10 or more complaints per month to NSW Fair Trading, however the register lists businesses under their public or trading name, which means franchises or brand co-operatives will be grouped together, rather than as individual businesses.
REINSW President John Cunningham says this means the register will be full of franchises and groups who, due to the popularity of their brand and their size, will almost always have 10 complaints per month.
“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,” he says.
“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.”
Under the system, small businesses with perfect records that are operating under a franchise will be indistinguishable from those brands that have been identified as poor traders.
“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.”
Cunningham says the issue could be rectified easily, by providing accurate and helpful information through treating businesses as individuals, rather than groups.