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(Jan 06, 2011) On January 1, 2011, the Australian Consumer Law, which is incorporated in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (previously called the Trade Practices Act 1974), came into effect. This Law "brings together a number of national, state and territory consumer protection laws to ensure consistency in the rights of consumers regardless of where they live." (Press Release, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, New Legal Protections for Australian Consumers Have Begun (Jan. 4, 2011), http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/965484/fromItemId/142.) The Law includes:

· a new, national unfair contract terms law covering standard form contracts;

· a new, national law guaranteeing consumer rights when buying goods and services, which replaces existing laws on conditions and warranties;

· a new, national product safety law and enforcement system;

· a new, national law for unsolicited consumer agreements, which replaces existing State and Territory laws on door-to-door sales and other direct marketing;

· simple national rules for lay-by agreements; and

· new penalties, enforcement powers and consumer redress options, which currently apply nationally. (The Australian Consumer Law, Australian Consumer Law website, http://www.consumerlaw.gov.au/content/Content.aspx?doc=the_acl.htm (last visited Jan. 5, 2011).)

In terms of consumer rights, the Law contains a set of minimum guarantees that must be met by businesses, including that "goods must be of acceptable quality, fit for any disclosed purpose and match any description given to them, services must be carried out with due care and skill, be fit for any disclosed purpose and achieve any specified result." (Press Release, supra.) Consumers will have rights to different remedies if a good or service does not meet the guarantees.

As part of the new product safety regime in the Law, a mandatory reporting requirement has been introduced that will require businesses to notify the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission "within two days after they become aware that product they supplied caused, or may have caused, serious injury, illness or death." (Id.) Consumers can also report product safety incidents to the Commission through a product safety website (www.productsafety.gov.au) or by phone, or they can notify the place of purchase. (Id.)

The Law also contains protections against unfair selling practices such as high pressure or misleading tactics in door-to-door sales and telemarketing. "These protections limit the hours sales people can contact consumers and require a written agreement to be provided which discloses basic information, including cooling off periods, termination rights and the total price of the sale." (Id.)

The Law will be enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and by state and territory consumer protection agencies. New enforcement powers also came into effect last year. (Id.; Enforcement, Australian Consumer Law website, http://www.consumerlaw.gov.au/content/Content.aspx?doc=the_acl/enforceme
nt.htm
(last visited Jan. 5, 2011).) A quick reference guide to the Law is available on the website of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, at http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/96
4441
.

It was reported that the Australian Productivity Commission has estimated that the flow-on benefits to the Australian economy from having a harmonized national consumer protection regime could total about AU$4.5 billion (about US$4.5 billion) per year. (Joe Kelly, Shoppers and Parents Among Those to Benefit from Law Changes at Midnight, THE AUSTRALIAN (Dec. 31, 2010), http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/shoppers-and-parents-am
ong-those-to-benefit-from-law-changes-at-midnight/story-fn59niix-122
5979359030
; The Australian Consumer Law, Australian Consumer Law website, http://www.consumerlaw.gov.au/content/Content.aspx?doc=fact_sheets/FAQ.h
tm
(last visited Jan. 6, 2011).)

Author: Kelly Buchanan More by this author
Topic: Consumer protection More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Australia More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 01/06/2011