The Federal Government has released draft versions of legislation and regulations to strengthen consumer protection laws. The changes would give effect to proposals contained in the 2017 Australian Consumer Law (ACL) Review Final Report agreed to by Commonwealth, State and Territory Consumer Affairs Ministers last year. The public has until the end of February to submit views on the draft changes.
The draft changes, contained in the Treasury Laws Amendment (Australian Consumer Law Review) Bill 2018 and the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Consumer Law Review) Regulations 2018, affect the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 including the ACL contained in it, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (ASIC Act) and the Competition and Consumer Regulations 2010.
The draft changes include:
- easing the evidentiary burden on people bringing claims under the ACL;
- extending the application of unconscionable conduct provisions to publicly listed companies;
- clarifying the meaning of unsolicited consumer agreements;
- requiring certain fees or charges to be included in the headline price for goods or services;
- strengthening the voluntary recall requirements on businesses;
- extending the powers of the ACCC and ASIC to investigate possible unfair contract terms;
- increasing the remedies and penalties available to the court for breaches of the ACL; and
- clarifying that the ACL-related consumer protections in the ASIC Act apply to financial products as well as financial services.
The expected changes to the ACL show that governments at both the federal and state level are committed to strengthening consumer protection in Australia. If these changes are ultimately adopted they will mean increased compliance requirements for business. Businesses should be aware of their obligations and ensure they comply with the law.
For assistance or advice in understanding your obligations and ensuring your business is complying with its obligations, please contact: