01.New consumer law
On 1 January 2011, the final set of amendments to the new Australian Consumer Law (ACL) comes into force. As we’ve commented before, these amendments are the most important reforms to Australia’s consumer laws since the Trade Practices Act was passed in 1974.
The most important elements of the package are:
- New laws on unfair terms in standard form contracts;
- Improved consumer guarantees on goods and services;
- Controls on door-to-door sales and similar sales away from business premises;
- New product safety rules requiring suppliers to inform regulators when they find out about a safety issue with their products; and
- New enforcement powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), including powers to issue warning and infringement notices, seek civil penalties and recover damages for groups of consumers.
More importantly, the new laws apply nationally – so for the first time, Australians everywhere will have the same consumer rights.
CHOICE has campaigned over decades for many of these changes, and we continue to represent consumer interests by making sure the implementation of the new rules enhance your awareness and understanding of your rights.
Ultimately, consumer laws work best when consumers are armed with information about their rights that they can assert when a problem arises. “With consumer guarantees in particular, if consumers cannot get a satisfactory outcome from the retailer, the time and cost of taking the matter any further means that in practice, they are denied their rights to goods of ‘acceptable quality’”, says Christopher Zinn, CHOICE Director for Campaigns and Communications.
“What we need to see is the ACCC taking some test cases early to establish the law and get the information out to consumers.
“It’s also a situation where consumers can make a valuable contribution just by insisting on their rights. Even if you only do it for a few months, we would urge consumers to review their contracts – preferably before they sign – and report any unfair terms to us or the ACCC.”
Similarly, you can help improve products by taking action to enforce consumer guarantees. If your toaster breaks down a few months after you’ve bought it, don’t just throw it out and buy a new one – take it back and insist on a replacement, refund or repair. You’ll be not only helping yourself, but also supporting all consumers and their right to a fair deal.
More information regarding the new consumer law can be found on the Australian Consumer Law website.
For more information about Retail, see Consumer protection.