New Australian consumer law
The Federal parliament recently amended the Trade Practices Act to replace the 17 existing national, state and territory consumer laws with a single national law. This will be a welcome relief to retailers and businesses that operate across various states and territories.
The amendments change the name from the Trade Practices Act to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA). Part of the CCA will be the Australian Consumer Law (“the ACL”) which will be adopted in the same format by each of the states and territories. In Victoria, the ACL forms part of the amended Fair Trading Act.
The ACL 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
- new penalties, enforcement powers and consumer redress options, which currently apply nationally.
The ACL continues many of the existing Trade Practices Act penalties for breaches, including fines of up to $1.1M for companies and $220,000 for individuals. The ACL will expand the enforcement powers of the ACCC to include substantiation notices and public warning notices.
Substantiation notices may be issued by the ACCC requiring a company or person to substantiate claims or representations made in relation to the supply of goods or services, the sale of land and offers of employment. Persons served with a substantiation notice will generally have 21 days to comply with it and to provide the ACCC with evidence supporting the representations or claims made.
Public Warning Notices may be issued by the ACCC to warn consumers about conduct that may constitute a contravention of certain ACL provisions. These Notices can also be issued if a person refuses or fails to respond to a Substantiation Notice.
Our Dispute Resolution & Litigation lawyers can assist you with responding to Substantiation Notices or Public Warning Notices. Our Corporate Advisory lawyers can answer any questions you may have about the new Australian Consumer Law.
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Author: Louise Tolson