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Is NSW Fair Trading being fair to real estate agencies?

Is NSW Fair Trading being fair to real estate agencies - Strataville

Thinking of getting an iPhone X?  A state of the art drone?  A Google Home?  We don’t blame you, they’re cool.  But NSW Fair Trading has a warning for you.  Skip ‘Android Enjoyed’.

The NSW government does anti-advertising now?  It actively campaigns against what seems to be a cool “online tech and gadget store”?

Yep.

Every month, Fair Trading publishes its Complaints Register, duly starring any business that got 10 or more complaints lodged against it in that period.  It means that, as a consumer, you have some insight into whether a business has a great reputation or whether they’re a little shonky.

What’s up with Android Enjoyed?

“Warning!  Don’t buy from them!” the top review at productreview.com.au warns.  Another said they ordered a phone from the Hong Kong based website and never got it.  “They are scammers!” another alleged.

Sounds like there might be something to it, especially as two other outlets owned by Digital Marketing and Solutions Pty Ltd have also appeared on the Register – 18 times!

So should we trust the Complaints Register? 

NSW Fair Trading says it checks that any complaints lodged with it were made by actual people, but that it could simply be a moan about “poor customer service”.

“Appearing on the Register does not necessarily mean that a business has breached any laws,” NSW Fair trading makes clear.

Indeed, huge companies will obviously attract more complaints, as mobile phone giants Apple and Samsung each got 30 complaints lodged against them on the latest Register, and The Good Guys, JB Hi-Fi and LG are also Register regulars.

And any media coverage, like the abysmal coverage attracted by Android Enjoyed, will also mean complaints could snowball.

Matt Kean, Minister for Better Regulation, defended the Register.

“I’m focused on making sure that consumers are being put first,” he said.

It seems that the NSW Government and Kean want the Register to first and foremost be a deterrent, even though repeat offenders – like Android Enjoyed – can face the issuing of public warnings and other actions.

Former NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Andrew Gavrielatos said: “More than a third of the traders never make a second appearance.  This is a clear sign that the Register is having the desired effect.”

Is NSW Fair Trading being fair to real estate agencies?

But others think the Register is unfair, particularly when it comes to big, franchised giants with enormous sales and turnovers.  And when complaints are resolved, it doesn’t mean the Register will be updated to reflect that.

Take Ray White – Australia’s largest real estate agency.  Present in every corner all across Australia, Ray White takes in almost $5 billion in sales … every single month!

So when ‘Ray White’ appears on the Complaints Register, is that fair?

The Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) sure doesn’t think so, describing the Register as “negligent and reckless”.

Former REINSW president John Cunningham says that for a real estate brand like Ray White and others, they’ll “almost always have 10 consumer complaints per month”.

He says this gives consumers a “false picture” about the actual practices and reputation of a business or brand … and he may have a very good point.

Ray White has almost 180 offices in NSW alone!  Despite that, a little bit of Year 6 maths shows that if you take the handful of complaints on the Register and crunch the numbers against those offices and sales, the number of complaints per office is actually less than 0.1 per month.

Not just that, when Ray White initially started appearing on the Register, the company asked Fair Trading to start referring complaints to Ray White’s own complaints resolution system

“We listen to our customers,” the complaints process opens, “and take all feedback seriously.  If we have not delivered the service you expected, our dedicated corporate customer care team will open an investigation for you.”

For a while, Ray White duly dropped off the list.  But then Fair Trading NSW stopped referring complainants to the Ray White system, and the real estate company once again started to breach that 10 complaints per month threshold.

Are real estate companies right to complain?

Think of it this way.  Imagine that a single Ray White franchise in NSW has 10 complaints registered against it.  ‘Ray White’ then appears on the Complaints Register.  And then all of these Ray White offices are tarred with the same brush – whether they had a single complaint lodged against them or not.

“It has serious implications for the property industry and puts businesses that are part of the agency groups at a distinct disadvantage,” former REINSW president John Cunningham continued.

“So instead of a system which helps protect consumers, it fails them.”

So, we ask NSW Fair Trading: what if we want to complain about you?

Is NSW Fair Trading being fair to real estate agencies?

About the author

Andrew Maitland

Andrew Maitland

Andrew is a professional journalist, writer and copywriter with close to two decades of experience. He has thousands of published works and is a head contributor for Strataville.

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