Queensland Office of Fair Trading (OFT) inspectors will be given new powers to stop and search vehicles as part of a strict crackdown on rogue businesses, including real estate agents.
The new powers would allow officers to pull over any business person suspected of criminal behaviour.
Refusal to comply with a search will be punished with an $18,000 fine.
In a statement to Real Estate Business, acting attorney-general David Crisafulli said the new laws were about insuring consumers were protected across the board.
“The current problem is that Fair Trading provisions and powers stretch across 14 different acts, meaning there are differences and inconsistencies in compliance and enforcement. For example, people currently face a lesser penalty under one act for failing to show an inspector their ID than under another act,” he said.
Despite a review revealing there was a problem back in 2008, the former government failed to address it.
“We are levelling the playing field in terms of allowing Fair Trading to effectively go after shonky operators,” Mr Crisafulli said.
“A lot of the dodgy traders Fair Trading deals with are itinerant, so their vehicles are their mini offices. An unscrupulous real estate agent may have contracts or advertising material in his car and Fair Trading will soon be allowed to search it and seize evidence.”
In 2013, there were 12,270 complaints lodged with Fair Trading, issuing $363,980 in infringement notices and civil penalty notices. The department also finalised actions against 104 entities on a total of 1,155 charges in a court of tribunal, resulting in $718,400 in fines and $336,787 in compensation.
Real Estate Institute of Queensland CEO Anton Kardash told Real Estate Business the new laws were a reflection of modern business practices.
"The OFT has long had the right to search business premises, but technological advances means that a business person or real estate agent today may not have an actual physical office," he said.
“The proposed new law is recognition of these alternative offices, which may include mobile spaces such as vehicles.
“The REIQ remains committed to improving the professionalism of real estate agents, so we welcome the OFT’s capacity to investigate potentially non-compliant practitioners."
Mr Kardash said a majority of successful general OFT prosecutions were against non-REIQ members.