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FPA Australia Wins Supreme Court Case

Posted on : Thursday, 16 February 2017

Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) has won an important and long-running Supreme Court case which could have far reaching implications for the Fire Protection Industry and the growing demand for professional accreditation schemes.


The case centred around whether FPA Australia had acted lawfully when it cancelled the accreditation of a practitioner.


In 2012 FPA Australia received a complaint about the practitioner's conduct which alleged some irregularities in reports that had been produced.


FPA Australia requested information from the practitioner in order to investigate the complaint. The practitioner refused several requests over a number of months and FPA Australia suspended and then cancelled the accreditation.  The practitioner issued proceedings against FPA Australia seeking reinstatement and other relief.


The Supreme Court found that the practitioner was bound by contract to provide the requested information and FPA Australia, as the administrator of the accreditation scheme, had acted appropriately.


In dismissing the proceedings and awarding costs to FPA Australia, the Court said: "In my view, the defendant [FPA Australia] was entitled to regard that as such a fundamental breach of the contract as to amount to repudiation. In the field of risk assessment, particularly a risk with such potentially catastrophic consequences, transparency and cooperation are of the utmost importance. This was not a question of a potential breach of the practices imposed by the Code of Practice or the General Conditions; it went to the heart of the defendant's role in providing certification to that end. The refusal to cooperate with the process threatened the defendant's capacity to proceed to investigate a complaint which, if established, was a serious matter. As already noted, that is not to make any assumption as to the merits of the complaint. The point is it needed to be investigated and the plaintiffs were refusing to cooperate in that process in the manner required by their contract."


FPA Australia's CEO, Scott Williams said that the importance of professionally managing and administering accreditation schemes was critical and governments must have absolute confidence in any organisation who delivers such a scheme.   If the scheme is not properly administered and the necessary governance does not exist, including a clear surveillance, auditing and disciplinary process, the existence of a scheme and therefore the necessary benefits it provides are undermined.


FPA Australia will continue to expand its accreditation schemes in the fire protection industry and ensure that confidence in its accreditation schemes is upheld.