On 1 January 2011, a single, national consumer protection and fair-trading law commenced across Australia. The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 replaces the Trade Practices Act 1974 and large sections of Queensland’s Fair Trading Act 1989. The new legislation aims to give businesses a fair and competitive operating environment.
The Act creates the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and its enforcement by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), in relation to financial services.
The Act is designed to enable the confident participation of consumers in markets in which both consumers and businesses trade fairly. Among the changes, the Act simplifies trading across borders as businesses are now regulated by a single set of rules. Consumers will also enjoy a broader range of protections as the Act sets out consumers’ rights and responsibilities covering areas such as returns, refunds, warranties, contracts, marketing and advertising.
There are also significant changes for Queensland businesses, including:
- Lay-by agreements must now be in writing and clearly expressed in plain language. If a consumer terminates a lay-by agreement, the business may only charge a reasonable termination fee.
- Unfair contract provisions – if a term in a consumer contract is found to be unfair it will be void and the consumer will not be bound by that term.
- A national regime for product safety will be introduced. Governments will have increased power to issue safety warning notices to the public, issue temporary or permanent bans on unsafe products and compel a business to recall an unsafe product.
For more information regarding the new legislation and its impacts visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website (www.accc.gov.au).