National Consumer Laws From 1 January 2011

National Consumer Laws From 1 January 2011

Western Australia Minister for Commerce Bill Marmion

WA Joins The National Consumer Law Evolution

Victor P Taffa

Western Australian legislation to enact the new Australian Consumer Law (ACL) will come into effect on January 1, 2011, providing for Nationally Consistent Fair Trading Laws that give Consumers Greater Protection and Rights.

The ACL will be enforced and administered by State Consumer Agencies, in association with the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) and, in the area of financial services, by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Commerce Minister Bill Marmion said the new laws which were passed last week in State Parliament would ensure that every consumer and business had the same rights and obligations, no matter where they lived or operated in Australia.

“More than 20 different State and Commonwealth laws will be replaced with one uniform national law, simplifying the rules and making them easier to understand for both consumers and business operators alike.” Mr. Marmion said.

“The ACL will strengthen and clarify consumer rights, giving consumers increased confidence that goods are fit for purpose, free from defects, safe and durable.”

“Services will be required to be carried out with reasonable care and skill and completed in a reasonable time.” Mr. Marmion said.

“The law will create a fairer and more competitive marketplace, allowing businesses to serve their customers better, become more efficient and compete more effectively.”

The ACL will cover:

  • A new national unfair contract terms law covering standard form ‘take it or leave it’ 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.

“The ACL gives consumers greater protection in the area of unsolicited selling by either door-to-door salespeople or by telemarketers, providing for a ten business-day cooling off period before contracts can be enforced.” the Minister said.

“This gives consumers who might be buying under pressure the opportunity to change their minds.”

“Consumer guarantees will ensure quality and safety. This means that faulty goods will be repaired, replaced or money refunded and services will be carried out with due care and skill as well as within a reasonable timeframe.”

“There will be clearer rules that apply to false, misleading or deceptive advertising and claims and this will include signage and labelling; and promoting fairness and honesty in the marketplace.” Mr. Marmion said.

Under the new laws, consumer contracts will have to be written in plain language and any term of a contract can be made void if found to be unfair by giving inequitable advantage to the trader.

This means that many industries will need to review their standard form contracts.

Consumers must be given receipts for goods costing more than $75 and can demand itemised bills for services under the new rules. All lay-by agreements must be in writing and transparent.