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ACCC Cleans Up Online Stores

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By Michael Nibaldi, Lawyer, MST Lawyers

Online shopping is booming, with Australians having spent $2 billion more online this year than last. Running an online store is a great way for any business to increase revenue, but the ACCC is right on top of the boom and have lately been focusing investigations on online businesses.

Following on from an ACCC investigation last year, a number of online stores and businesses have had to amend their terms and conditions to remove misleading claims, in particular claims that mislead customers about their rights under the Australian Consumer Law.

Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair of the ACCC said, “It is important that consumers are not misled into thinking that their consumer rights do not apply when shopping online. Online retailers need to provide clear and accurate information about their obligations to consumers if there is a problem with the goods or services they supply.”

The ACCC has also recently conducted a review of Unfair Contract Terms, with the focus again on online businesses. Unfair terms highlighted by the ACCC are those that allow the online business to:

  • Change or vary terms without the customer’s approval
  • Cancel orders after a customer has paid for the products
  • Limit the Consumer Guarantees provided by the Australian Consumer Law

The ACCC will continue to monitor the activities of online businesses to ensure they comply with the Australian Consumer Law. One ISP company has already been sued by the ACCC for failing to comply, indicating the ACCC is now ready to begin enforcing the laws in court.

To help prevent your online business being part of the next investigation, you can:

  • Review your terms and conditions, looking out for Unfair Contract Terms
  • Update any Warranties Against Defects
  • Implement a Privacy Policy
  • Ensure you don’t limit or negate the Consumer Guarantees

If you would like MST Lawyers to review your online business to ensure compliance with this important issue, please contact our Corporate Advisory team on (03) 8540 0200.