Information for consumers and businesses affected by COVID-19
The Queensland Government is responding to the emergence of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, across the state.
Both consumers and businesses should be aware of the issues that may arise during a health crisis.
This page is broken down into information for consumers and information for businesses, licensees, associations or non-profits.
Your rights as a consumer:
- Cancelled travel and events
- Price increases
- Availability of ordered products
- Miracle cures
- Fake charities
Your rights as a business, licensee, association or non-profit:
- Licence, audit and annual return renewal fee extensions
- Property agents
- Security providers
- Tattoo operators
- Incorporated associations, charities and not-for-profits
- Price gouging or profiteering
- Checking your supply chains
- Business recovery
Your rights as a consumer
Cancelled travel and events
Where a business has to cancel travel (e.g. a flight or a cruise) or an event (e.g. concert, sporting fixture or theatre performance) because of a government ruling made after the goods or services were sold but before they are due to be provided, then you may not be entitled to a refund under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
Similarly, if you can no longer use other associated goods or services (e.g. accommodation, tours or car hire), because your travel has been cancelled under a government ruling, you are also unlikely to be entitled to a refund under the ACL.
We recommend that you contact the trader to see what remedy they can offer. Many traders have made public statements that they are helping their customers by providing remedies like:
- full or partial refunds
- credit notes
If the trader does not provide a remedy and you paid by credit card, contact the bank to see if they can reverse the transaction.
If you have insurance, you should check the terms and conditions of your policy to see if your situation is covered. For assistance and advice with insurance matters, contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
If you have been affected by the cancellation of travel or an event as a result of COVID-19 and you believe you are entitled to redress but have not been able to get it, you can lodge a complaint with us.
You may notice increases in the price of basic goods during a disaster or health emergency (e.g. for face masks or hand sanitiser). This usually happens because it costs traders more to get goods into the shops to sell—they may have to transport things from further afield or use different transportation methods, which means bigger fuel bills; or they may have reduced staff available and are paying overtime rates.
Prices also go up as a result of supply and demand. You can expect prices to increase when there is a shortage of goods and a greater demand. We cannot prevent or take action to stop price rises, or price falls, as we have no role in setting prices.
The ACL protects you from ‘unconscionable conduct’ by businesses. This is defined as a statement or action that is so unreasonable that it defies good conscience (e.g. where the product is critical to the health or safety of vulnerable consumers).
Businesses must not act unconscionably when selling or supplying goods and services to you, or when supplying or acquiring goods and services to or from a business.
Excessive price increases during a disaster or health emergency is sometimes called price gouging or profiteering.
If you think that price increases seem excessive or unreasonable, ask the trader to explain. If you are not satisfied with their response, you can lodge a complaint with us. When lodging a complaint, please ensure that you can provide as much information as possible, including:
- trader name and location
- a description of the goods and the price
- copies of receipts
- a photo of the sale sign.
Availability of ordered products
It may take longer for imported goods to arrive in Australia as governments shut down supply chains or introduce additional checks to limit the possible spread of coronavirus.
Businesses cannot promise customers usual supply timeframes once they know that they can no longer be met, or are unlikely to be met. If they do so it is likely to be misrepresentation under the ACL.
If you find yourself in this situation, you can request a refund under the ACL, because goods need to be supplied within a ‘reasonable’ time. A ‘reasonable time’ will depend on the type of product.
However, if a business sold you goods before the supply chains were interrupted by changed government rules and then can’t supply them within the expected timeframe because of the rules, it is unlikely to be a breach of the ACL. Although you may still be entitled to a remedy. You should check the terms and conditions of your contract with the business to see what the situation is for your purchase.
We suggest you have understanding and patience during this unusual time, because many businesses are having to implement or change their sales processes and customer management policies and procedures at very short notice.
Talk to the business about your concerns and see if a remedy can be offered.
If the business fails to respond within a reasonable time, or if you believe the business is not providing a remedy you may be entitled to, you can lodge a complaint with us.
Some therapeutic goods (e.g. medicines or disinfectants) may be advertised or promoted to prevent or cure novel coronavirus infections.
Advertisements for therapeutic goods in Australia are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Advertisements that claim to prevent or cure novel coronavirus are likely to be in breach of these laws as they may include unsupported claims or restricted representations.
Be cautious when considering purchasing goods or services because of claims made in advertising. It is best to speak to a health care professional if you have health concerns.
The spread of coronavirus can bring on fear and anxiety for many people in the community. Unfortunately scammers are taking advantage of the situation to exploit and play on these fears.
These scams include selling coronavirus-related products online and failing to deliver them, and using fake emails, social media messages and text messages to infect your device with malware and try and obtain personal data.
Learn more about COVID-19 (coronavirus) scams on the ScamWatch website.
It is important to stay vigilant and aware during these uncertain times. If you are worried about a phone call, email, social media post or text message, it is best not to respond and do not click on any links.
If you think you have been scammed, you can report it to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on the ScamWatch website.
Scammers also use emergencies to pose as charity collectors, pretending to raise funds for people in need.
Queenslanders are known for their generosity and should not be put off donating. Instead, you should do your homework to make sure your donation will reach the groups you want to help.
Genuine street and door-to-door charity collectors should:
- wear prominent identification, such as an armlet or badge
- issue receipts (unless a collection box is used, or the donation is given in exchange for a promotional item such as a badge, emblem, pen or artificial flower)
- be able to produce a current written authority from the association they claim to be collecting for
- be 15 or older, or be accompanied by an adult
- door knock only between 9am and 5pm.
If you don’t think a collector is genuine, do not donate and report them to us at email@example.com.
Ensure you note down as much information as possible, including a description of the collector and their vehicle registration number.
Be suspicious if a collector:
- does not have any identification or you think the identification looks forged
- cannot or will not give you details about the charity (e.g. its full name, address or phone number)
- becomes defensive when asked what the charity does and how much of the donation gets taken up by costs
- asks for cash, will not accept a cheque or asks for a cheque to be made out to them rather than to the charity
- does not want to provide a receipt or the receipt does not have the charity’s details on it.
You should also be aware of:
- illegitimate collectors who may
- set up false websites or social media accounts
- send letters or emails similar to those used by real charities
- fake charities that use unsolicited telephone calls or emails to ask for donations.
Tools for checking charities
To help you determine if a charity is legitimate, you can search our register for free.
You can also search the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission database to see if an organisation has been granted charity status.
If you want to fundraise
Your rights as a licensee, association or non-profit
Licence, audit and renewal fee extensions
If you are having difficulty meeting an OFT lodgement date because of the impact of COVID-19, you may be eligible for extenuating circumstances provisions for renewal applications, trust account audits or annual returns.
We determine applications on a case-by-case basis. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need an extension and one of our officers will contact you as soon as possible.
If you need to renew your licence, our online form lodgement and payment portal is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also login at any time to track the status of your licence or certificate renewal with us.
Note that only these people can renew online:
- real estate salespersons
- individual real estate agents
- individual motor dealers
- individual field agents
- individual security providers.
Some restrictions have been placed on property licensees regarding social distancing and open houses, inspections and auctions.
We have developed a fact sheet that answers your frequently asked questions about your obligations under the Property Occupations Act 2014 and complying with social distancing rules.
We understand that due to COVID-19 some security providers may have difficulty accessing the ongoing training that is usually required before a licensee can renew. To help licensees in this difficult time, we are allowing a grace period of 12 months for you to complete this ongoing training. This applies to renewals due between 1 March 2020 and 30 September 2020.
So if, for example, your ongoing training is due on 1 June 2020, it would now be due on 1 June 2021.
You still need to lodge and pay your renewal before the due date in order to continue to work while it is being processed. Email us at email@example.com if you have any questions.
New Zealand criminal history checks for licence applications
The New Zealand Ministry of Justice conducts criminal history checks on Queensland applicants applying for our security licences.
On 26 March 2020, New Zealand entered a month-long compulsory lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus and, as a result, these checks cannot be processed.
We are aware that the security industry is an essential component of many organisations' business continuity plans. If the applicant meets all other probity and training requirements and pays the required fee, we will continue to process applications impacted by the closure.
However, these licences will have a condition that the New Zealand criminal history check must be supplied within 6 months. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
In response to the spread of COVID-19, the Prime Minister has announced a ban on all tattooing procedures in Australia until further notice.
This ban means tattooists and operators cannot perform tattooing anywhere in Australia, including in their own home, until the government relaxes the restrictions. We do not yet know when this will occur.
As a result, we will not issue any new tattoo operator licences under the Tattoo Industry Act 2013 during this time.
We want to offer existing tattoo licensees as much assistance and flexibility as possible for your licence.
If you recently lodged a new application and paid your licence fees, but have not yet been issued with your licence, you can either:
- withdraw your application and seek a refund of the licence fee
- put your application and licence fee on hold with us, until the ban is lifted.
For existing licensees, your licence remains valid until the current licence period expires—either 1 or 3 years after the licence was granted or your last renewal. We cannot suspend your licence other than cancelling it.
If your licence is due for renewal during this ban, it is still important you lodge your renewal application for it to remain current and to avoid having to apply for a new licence when it expires.
By keeping your licence current, you can avoid submitting application paperwork and undergoing fingerprinting and criminal history checks again to renew. When government restrictions are lifted, you will also be able to resume your tattooing business straight away, but only if you have lodged your renewal before it expires during this time.
If you need to renew your licence, you will need to mail it to:
The Industry Licensing Unit
GPO Box 3111
BRISBANE QLD 4001
For more information, read our frequently asked questions on COVID-19 for the Queensland tattoo industry.
Incorporated associations, charities and not-for-profits
The Associations Incorporation Act 1981 requires an association’s annual general meeting (AGM) to be held within 6 months of the end of their financial year. There is an existing provision in the Act (s. 121) that allows the chief executive to grant an extension to an association for holding its AGM.
Normal practice is that an individual association must apply to OFT, outlining the special circumstances as to why the extension should be granted. However, in the current circumstances, we will allow a grace period of a further 6 months to hold your AGM, if required, without the need for you to make a written application.
In effect, this may result in a management committee’s term being longer than is described in the rules, but, given the current circumstances, we hope members will be accepting of this.
Price gouging or profiteering
We understand that prices for basic goods may increase during a health emergency due to transportation costs, overtime rates or supply and demand.
You must not act unconscionably when selling or supplying goods and services to the community, or when supplying or acquiring goods and services to or from a business.
If found guilty of unconscionable conduct, the maximum fines are:
- for a corporation, the greater of
- $10 million
- 3 times the value of the benefit received
- 10% of annual turnover in the preceding 12 months, where the benefit cannot be calculated.
- for an individual, $500,000 per breach.
Checking your supply chains
As governments shut down supply chains to limit the possible spread of coronavirus, it may take longer for goods that are coming from overseas to arrive.
We understand that this is out of your control. However, you must not take orders and promise consumers the usual supply times knowing that these cannot be met or are unlikely to be met. To do so could be considered misleading conduct under the ACL and significant penalties apply.
We recommend that you take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence by making contingency plans to try to reduce the impact of this situation as much as you can.
The ACL provides guarantees for products and services purchased in Australia and if you fail to meet your obligations to a consumer, they have the right to a remedy.
Read more about guarantees, warranties and refunds.
A $4 billion package has been announced to provide assistance for Queensland workers, business and households to manage the impacts of COVID-19. Find out how to access assistance.
If you are finding it difficult to meet your company obligations during a crisis, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) they may be able to provide you with information.
There are resources and fact sheets to help industry and businesses understand and prepare for the impacts of COVID-19.