Why the new ndis legislation is in place
Competition in the NDIS marketplace for goods and services is generating some fresh realities for providers. A good working knowledge of Federal and State consumer law is now essential.
Sole traders competing to woo participants, carers and plan managers, need to stay within the parameters of laws protecting consumers from unfair trading practices.
It means providers now have a duty of care to participants not only as a carer, but also as a business.
Whether or not they are registered with the NDIS, providers need to fully understand the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) and the Australian Consumer Law.
Regulatory authorities take legal action, often resulting in fines or prison sentences, against those who seek to deceive, harass, treat unfairly or browbeat customers into agreeing a sale.
The ante is upped when the customer in question is an NDIS participant.
An ACCC publication aimed at NDIS providers, ‘A guide to competition and consumer law - For businesses selling to and supplying consumers with disability’, contains advice on all relevant aspects of consumer law.
The guide emphasises that consumers with disability may be vulnerable, such as those with intellectual disability.
And it adds: “Where businesses seek to take advantage of a consumer’s disability or vulnerability, the ACL regulators will not hesitate to take strong enforcement action.”
Along with the ACCC, the co-authors of the guide include the consumer protection authorities of all states and territories, as well as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
The guide gives an overview of the laws and regulations that protect consumers, and create a fair and open playing field in the marketplace.
Additionally, it runs through the obligations of businesses, and how to treat customers fairly, along with case studies relevant to the disability sector.
To comply with NDIS regulations and be profitable, sole traders in particular must acquire non-core skills to manage, market and administer their business.
Most importantly for the well-being of participants - but also for the well-being of their business - some may need a crash-course in consumer law.
In pre-NDIS days, providers would often supply their goods and services as an approved supplier to a welfare agency, usually a government department, or through a tender process. This demand-driven provisioning model placed the onus of ensuring a fair and open marketplace on the agency.
Now, in the new era of competition under the NDIS, it’s the responsibility of the provider to self-regulate and ensure they have the necessary policies and processes in place to mitigate their risk, work productively and manage a viable business.