The Australian Consumer Law is a national law covering consumer protection and fair trading that applies across all states and territories, as well as nationally. Australian buyers have the same protections and businesses have the same obligations throughout the whole of Australia.
The ACL provides a clear understanding of the law for both Australian consumers and businesses, all Australian courts and tribunals can enforce it. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and each State and Territory’s consumer law agency administers the ACL to ensure fairness and protection for all Australian consumers no matter where they live within Australia.
The ACL covers general protections, which prescribe standards of business conduct when selling goods or services, including the following:
A general ban on misleading and deceptive conduct in trade or commerce,
A general ban on unconscionable conduct in trade or commerce and specific bans on unconscionable conduct in buyer and some business transactions, and
A provision that makes unfair contract terms in consumer contracts void.
The ACL also includes specific protections that relate to certain forms of business conduct, including the following:
- Banning specific unfair practices in trade or commerce, provisions dealing with consumer transactions;
- The safety of consumer goods and product-related services;
- The making and enforcement of information standards, and
- The liability of producers for goods with safety defects.
The ACL came into force on 1 January 2011 to replace twenty State and Territory consumer laws. At the same time the name of the Trade Practices Act changed to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA).
Australia now has one set of laws covering product safety and unfair contract terms and improved laws covering consumer guarantees. The ACCC may seek civil pecuniary penalties before the courts for breaches of the laws as well as infringement notices.
The ACCC also has new powers such as the ability to issue substantiation notices whenever traders make claims about their products or services. The ACL ensures that Australian buyers can maintain their trust in the benefits of a market economy.
Breaches of the ACL under certain sections will only occur where the complained conduct has to do with engaged “in trade or commerce”. Generally, the amount paid for the goods or services must not exceed $40,000. If it is a greater amount, the goods or services must be acquired for personal, domestic or household consumption, or a vehicle used for the transport of goods on public roads. However, it does not apply if the goods will be re-supplied or used in certain trade or commerce.
Misleading and deceptive conduct is an important protection that was previously under section 52 of the TPA, replaced by section 18 of the ACL. It states that “a person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading and deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive”. The provision is directed at conduct that consists of a misrepresentation, whether or not it was intended to mislead or deceive.
Citilawyers can assist you or your business with all consumer related matters. Whether you are a buyer seeking to protect your rights or ensure you receive a fair deal, or a company that requires legal advice, our experienced lawyers can provide expert legal assistance. Feel free to contact us today!