Uniform Consumer Laws

From 1 January 2011, Australia will have a single, consumer law: the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL will be a schedule to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. This Act replaces the Trade Practices Act 1974.

The new laws replace 17 National and State consumer laws and are regulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as well as each State and Territory consumer law agency.

The ACL reforms consumer law in Australia including:

  • the establishment of a national scheme for statutory “consumer guarantees” which will replace the implied conditions and warranties provisions in the current law.
  • the establishment of a nationally consistent scheme for product safety, product recalls and product liability.
  • introduction of a new requirement that a complete and total price is reflected in documents.
  • new provisions dealing with direct selling for example door to door and telesales marketing which among other things regulates the times during which approaches can be made and provide for a 10 day cooling off period.

The definition of “consumer” will cover all persons who purchase goods or services under $40,000 and where the goods and services are ordinarily acquired for personal, domestic or household use or consumption.

There is an exception to the start date in the Unfair Contracts Terms requirements that have applied in Victoria and New South Wales since July 2009. These new provisions apply to standard form consumer contracts. These are are basically contracts under which a good or service is offered on a “take it or leave it” basis. Terms that are considered “unfair” may be amended, declared void or held unenforceable.

Clients who enter contracts with consumers (as opposed to business customers), or provide any goods or services to consumers should consider the impact of these changes on their business, particularly their compliance procedures.

If you have any questions about the changes please call Alister Bayston on 0411 239 560.