The Office of Fair Trading was established on 2 April 2003 when the former Department of Fair Trading was abolished and its branches transferred to the newly created Department of Commerce.(1) Fair Trading became one of the five Offices of the Department of Commerce, along with the: Office of Industrial Relations, Office of Government Business, Office of Government Procurement, and the Office of Information and Communications Technology.
The Office of Fair Trading is the consumer protection agency in New South Wales and is responsible for assisting consumers to resolve a wide range of issues. The agency safeguards consumer rights and advises business and traders on fair and ethical practice.
In 2004, the Office of Fair Trading consisted of the following Divisions and business units:
1) Legal Services Division – undertakes prosecutions and civil litigation that contribute to compliance initiatives; supports compliance activity by providing legal advice within the Office of Fair Trading;
2) Compliance & Standards Division - collects and evaluates marketplace intelligence to identify “at risk” trading practices and marketplace sectors; investigates individual businesses and market practices; undertakes prosecutions, civil litigations and other disciplinary and enforcement action; administers legislation in relation to product safety and trade measurement;
3) Register of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS) – provides a registration service for financiers to record their interest in vehicles; provides a consumer enquiry service to identify vehicles which have money owing on them; identifies vehicles reported as stolen, flood-damaged, or written off as wrecks;
4) Registry of Co-operatives and Associations – registers and monitors co-operatives and funeral funds; incorporates New South Wales associations; monitors co-operatives, maintains a public register of, and provides information for, co-operatives, funeral funds and incorporated associations in New South Wales; provides development services for the co-operatives sector;
5) Customer Services Division – maintains a network of 23 Fair Trading Centres (in 2004) which provides shopfront access to all services for customers throughout New South Wales and supports other centres providing Fair Trading services; provides a general telephone enquiry service for consumers and traders; provides specialist support services to help customers with credit, real estate and retirement village problems; conducts outreach and community liaison programs;
6) Property & Licensing Division – provides a rental bond lodgement, custody, refund and information service for tenants, landlords and real estate agents; provides tenancy information services for tenants, landlords and real estate agents and residents and managers of residential parks; co-ordinates the business names registration function (provided jointly with the Customer Services Division); registers limited partnerships; manages a licensing system for a range of property services and other business licences; provides a mediation service to resolve disputes within strata schemes or community schemes;
7) Home Building Service – responsible for the licensing of builders and tradespeople in the home building industry and a number of special trade categories across all industries; maintains a public register of licence holders; provides a disputes resolution system for both consumers and industry; conducts compliance and/or technical investigations into licensed and unlicensed home builders and tradespeople and conducts investigations into home building market practices; administers the Government funded Building Insurers’ Guarantee Corporation (BIG Corp) which was established as part of the NSW Government rescue package to assist victims of the HIH collapse; oversees the implementation of building reforms, co-ordinates ongoing reviews of home building laws and the implementation of proposed reforms; assists industry to improve its standards through training and requirements, programs and initiatives;
8) Policy & Strategy Division – develops and reviews legislation in line with Government policies; provides policy advice to the Minister and Commissioner; co-ordinates access and equity and Equal Employment Opportunity programs; provides information and education programs to help consumers make sound purchasing decisions and for the business sector to trade fairly.(2)
In 2004, the Office of Fair Trading administered a large quantity and a range of legislation related to its responsibilities.
In 2007 the group of staff principally involved in the accredited service providers program were removed from the Department of Energy, Utilities and Sustainability and transferred to the Office of Fair Trading, Department of Commerce (3), to be effective from 27 April 2007. (4)
From 1 July 2009 when the Department of Commerce was abolished the Office of Fair Trading became a branch of the new Principal Department, the Department of Services, Technology and Administration. (5)
From 4 April 2011 when the name of the Department of Services, Technology and Administration was changed the Office of Fair Trading became a branch of the Department of Finance and Services. (6)
1. NSW Government Gazette (No.67), 2 April 2003, p.4330.
2. NSW Office of Fair Trading website (accessed 23/9/2004):
3. NSW Government Gazette, No 47, Special Supplement, 2 April 2007, p.2105
4. NSW Government Gazette, No 56, Special Supplement, 20 April 2007, p.2435
5. Public Sector Employment and Management (Departmental Amalgamations) Order 2009 (2009 No 352) cls. 28; notified on NSW Legislation website, 27 July 2009.
6. Public Sector Employment and Management (Departments) Order 2011 (2011 No 184) cls. 29; notified on NSW Legislation website, 3 April 2011.
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