Codes of practice and service charters are guidelines for fair dealings between you and your customers. NSW Fair Trading has already endorsed several voluntary codes of practice developed in consultation with different industry groups. These codes have resulted in better customer and business relations by establishing agreed minimum standards of behaviour and conduct for handling various trading situations.
Codes of practice
Usually, codes of practice are put together through consultation with representatives of a specific industry and the community. They can be mandatory or voluntary. Mandatory codes provide a minimum standard of protection to the consumers of particular industries. They are regulations under the Fair Trading Act 1987 (Part 7) and have the force of law.
Voluntary codes are self-regulated. They can be sponsored by an industry association or they can be in partnership with a government agency. Membership of an industry association may be a condition of the code. Unlike mandatory codes, voluntary industry codes are flexible and can be altered quickly in response to changing industry/consumer needs. Compliance with a voluntary code can give you a competitive edge in the marketplace. Usually this is promoted by displaying an industry-endorsed logo that customers should look for.
Service charters are usually created on a business-by-business basis and give certain guarantees to customers about the service levels that they can expect and what will happen if they are not met. If you decide to adopt a service charter or a code of practice, the most important thing to remember is that they are active documents. In other words, customers and the government expect you to live by the code or charter and not to simply launch it and forget about it. The code or charter is your written promise to the world about how your business deals with customers, not just a vague motto.