Three of Australia’s state governments have resorted to direct measures to warn property spruikers of the potential legal ramifications of their actions.
The state governments of New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria have issued direct warnings to property spruikers operating within their jurisdictions, sending letters apprising them of the need to abide by the Australian Consumer Law or else face harsh penalties running as high as $1.1 million.
The property spruikers on the receiving end of the warnings reportedly number in the dozens and are typically high profile figures, some of whom run their operations on a nation-wide scale.
The warnings arrive as consumer advocates raise concerns about the dangers of property spruikers, who employ free seminars to pressure attendants into making unsound purchases, or dispense investment advice of a highly dubious nature.
Seminars often promote either rent-to-buy or vendor finance deals which can leave unprepared participants exposed to major financial losses should such arrangements go awry.
Heidi Victoria, Victoria’s Consumer Affairs Minister, said that while the state government was not investigating anyone in particular at present, it was well aware of the dubious practices being employed by property spruikers. She said the government hopes the letters would have the effect of “educating” recipients about their obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.
Victoria said she was particularly concerned about property spruikers convincing people to make investments using monies from their self-managed super funds.
At the start of this year, Victoria led a nation-wide effort to crack down on property spruiking, bringing together the ministers of consumer affairs departments from around the country to put together a concerted campaign.
Over a dozen nation-wide organisations were targeted out of a total of around 60 known to authorities, with the Western Australian Consumer Protection Commissioner Anne Driscoll turning to the Supreme Court to stop three businesses engaging in rent-to-buy arrangements.
Authorities in Western Australia also managed to compel seminar speaker Rick Otton to agree to cease staging his events in the state, as well as refrain from selling his book How to Buy a House for a Dollar for a two-year period.