25 August 2016
Consumer group CHOICE has welcomed NSW Fair Trading’s groundbreaking release of businesses complaints data through a state-wide register and is calling on Australia’s other consumer regulators to follow suit.
The complaints register currently has 20 companies on it, with LJ Hooker topping the list with 31 complaints followed by Harvey Norman with 29, AirAsia with 25 and Ray White with 23.  Only companies that receive 10 or more complaints in a month are added to the register.
"The value of this data to shine a light on systemic problems is already clear. For example, with 59 complaints in the top 20 regarding tenancy and bonds, it looks like NSW renters may be getting a raw deal from real estate agents,"  says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.
"NSW Fair Trading has shown national leadership by shedding sunlight on business complaints, and we’d like to see all Australians have access to this kind of data. Knowing how many complaints have been made about a business, can help consumers save time and ultimately stop them being ripped off.
"The register is also good for businesses as it offers them vital intelligence on how they are performing and provides them with a public incentive to improve how they deliver their products and services.
"We need a culture where business embraces complaints as a way of becoming more focused on their customers, not scared seeing data like this made public."
The complaints register also makes it easy for consumers to view complaints against large franchises such as real estate groups and electronics retailers. CHOICE has rejected calls from some industry groups to separate individual franchisees in the listings.
"When you buy into a franchise, you buy into its reputation, taking on the good and the bad, so we think it’s right that franchisees should be listed under their common brand," Mr Godfrey says.
"Interestingly the complaints register initially listed 30 businesses with high levels of complaints, NSW Fair Trading confirmed that 10 companies were able to be removed after they took immediate steps to remedy problems. Clearly this wasn’t the case for the likes of LJ Hooker and Ray White.
"The fact that a number of businesses took immediate action when they were first listed is a great example of how the register is already working to improve outcomes for consumers and drive positive change for businesses.
"It’s great to see NSW Fair Trading leading the way, showing other jurisdictions what innovation and open government should look like. We would now like to see other consumer law regulators to follow and release their own complaints data."
Tom Godfrey, CHOICE Head of Media: 0430 172 669
Set up by consumers for consumers, CHOICE is the consumer advocate that provides Australians with information and advice, free from commercial bias. As vital today as when we were founded in 1959, CHOICE continues to fight for consumers and uncover the truth. By mobilising Australia’s largest and loudest consumer movement, CHOICE fights to hold industry and government accountable and achieve real change on the issues that matter most.