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Standard fact sheet.
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Investigating your business 

These guidelines summarise the legal powers that NSW Fair Trading has to investigate your business. In some instances, these legal powers can extend beyond what is described here. 

Why is my business being investigated? 

Fair Trading investigates people and businesses to check that they are complying with the law and takes action if the law has been breached.

An investigation could start in response to a complaint from a consumer or be part of a compliance operation where many businesses are being investigated at a particular time.

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Does an investigator have the right to enter my premises? 

Fair Trading employees called investigators may enter any place at a reasonable time where they believe goods are manufactured, prepared or supplied or where services are supplied or arranged. Investigators have the power to enter a dwelling or other residential premises where manufacturing, business or trade is conducted, or where the occupier consents. 

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What can an investigator inspect? 

An investigator may make any inspections considered necessary. This can include, but is not limited to, inspecting goods or partially manufactured goods.

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What inquiries can an investigator make? 

An investigator may question any employee or person engaged in the business at the place entered. 

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Can evidence be obtained from my business or anyone associated with my business? 

An investigator with appropriate written authority may enter and inspect premises, as well as make copies of and take extracts from any document believed to be evidence that the law has been breached.

If Fair Trading reasonably believes a person or organisation can provide information or evidence regarding a breach of the law, an investigator can request this information or evidence from the person by giving them written notice. 

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Can I refuse to co-operate with the investigator? 

It is an offence to hinder or obstruct investigators from doing their duties. It is also an offence not to provide an investigator with reasonable access and assistance so they can effectively undertake an investigation.

Hindering or obstructing a Fair Trading investigation can result in penalties of up to $2,200 or up to six months imprisonment or both. 

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What if I’m found to be in breach of the law? 

There are a number of actions the NSW Government can take if you are found to be in breach of the law, including:

  • an enforceable undertaking, a legally-binding agreement to do certain things so you will comply with the law
  • an injunction to stop you continuing to do something which breaks the law. For example, you may have to cancel advertising that is considered to be misleading
  • issuing a public warning notice
  • prosecution through the courts
  • imposing of financial penalties
  • notice to place corrective advertising. You may be required to place an advertisement in a major paper that gives customers certain information about your business, such as fees not disclosed in previous advertisements
  • freezing of bank accounts
  • referral of complaints to other authorities or bodies.

 

IMPORTANT – consumers and businesses also have the right to compensation through the courts for any loss or damage that occurs due to a business breaking the law.

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What conduct can I expect from investigators? 

Investigators are bound by a code of conduct and must uphold organisational values. Investigators must ensure their decisions and actions are:

  • reasonable
  • fair
  • appropriate to the circumstances.

Investigators must consider all relevant facts, legislation, policies and procedures before finalising their investigations and making recommendations.

As a NSW government organisation, Fair Trading must follow a code of practice when dealing with businesses. This is based on:

  • open and effective communication
  • respect and trust
  • non-adversarial dispute resolution.

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What should my business do to co-operate with the investigation? 

Your business can assist investigators by:

  • providing accurate and reliable advice and information when required
  • acting ethically, fairly and honestly in all dealings with investigators
  • not offering investigators gifts or other benefits designed to improperly influence the conduct of their duties.

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What can I do if I think I've been treated unfairly? 

We are committed to providing fair, reasonable and appropriate conduct in all aspects of our investigations. However, if you believe you have been treated unfairly, you can make a complaint about our service. To find out more, visit the ‘Complaints about our services’ page on our website.

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Where can I get more information? 

More information on Fair Trading's power to investigate businesses is available from www.legislation.nsw.gov.au

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