Real estate body raises complaints concerns

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A peak real estate body has believes buyers may be misled buy NSW Fair Trading’s plans to publicly name and shame companies that generate large amounts of complaints.

Later this week will see the regulator publish the first edition of its new complaints register, which will be updated each month with the names of businesses that generate 10 or more complaints in the previous month.

NSW Fair Trading said complaints will have to be verified before a business is placed on the register and NSW Fair Trading commissioner Rob Stowe said it will benefit the public.

“This greater transparency gives consumers a more informed choice before they buy and traders who find themselves on the register will have a strong incentive to improve business practices,” Stowe said.

But while Stowe believes it will be positive for the public, Real Estate Institute of New South Wales (REINSW) president John Cunningham believes real estate franchises are going to be unfairly represented on the register.

Cunningham the REINSW is concerned as the Complaints Register will list businesses under their public and recognisable ‘trading’ or ‘brand’ name which means that franchises or brand co-operatives will be grouped together instead of as the individual businesses they are.

“As a result, the register will simply be full of franchises and groups who, due to the popularity of their brand and their sheer size, will almost always have 10 consumer complaints per month,” Cunningham said.

“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 said.

Cunningham said that means information that appears on the register could be misleading, which could result in the public making misinformed decisions when it comes to engaging the services of a real estate official.

“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.

“The consumer will naturally gravitate to the agent that does not appear on the register due to the misleading information provided by NSW Fair Trading.

“The issue could be simply rectified by providing accurate and helpful information to the consumer by treating businesses as individuals rather than trying to lump large groups under one umbrella.”

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