According to Section 45 – of the Trades Practices Act arrangements or understandings restricting dealings or affecting competition are illegal.
It has been suggested that the Victims Support Agency (VSA) has been restricting free market place competition for the delivery of services to victims of crime now for some eight years.
If a victim of crime calls the well publicised VSA administered Helpline it has been suggested that callers are then automatically referred to a Victims Assistance and Counselling Program (VACP), also administered by the VSA. The restriction of trade occurs as victims are not informed of their alternate rights to seek support from private practitioners.
This is akin to someone requiring urgent medical treatment and is informed that they can only access treatment via a public hospital and then put on a six month waiting list as opposed to being informed that they can also seek treatment from a private hospital and can potentially receive treatment immediately.
It has been suggested that this monopoly, like all monopolies, has resulted in inefficiencies and a deterioration of services to victims of crime. An example is that this system necessitates victims to repeatedly tell their story to various others over an extended period of time, some six months, before they may receive any appropriate support.
It also appears that such a monopoly is also in breach of the Victim’s Charter by not informing victims of their entitlements and not providing those entitlements in the most appropriate and timely manner.
It has further been suggested that the VSA has actively attempted to discourage private organizations from informing victims of crime of their rights to seek support from private organizations.
The question arises as to why this potentially anti competitive behaviour has been allowed to occur and to continue over such an extended period of time. We now call on the Anti Competition and Consumer Commissioner, Australia’s competition regulator and national consumer law, to investigate this behaviour.