The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Chris Bowen

Chris Bowen

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs

3 December 2007 - 8 June 2009

Media Release of 17/02/2009


Australian Consumers to Receive Protection from Unfair Contract Terms

The Consumer Affairs Minister, Chris Bowen MP, today announced a fast tracking of new laws to protect Australian consumers.

Parliament will consider legislation during the year to protect consumers from unfair contract terms and provide new enforcement powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, both key planks in the Australian Consumer Law agreed by COAG in October 2008.

"Today's announcement will extend consumer protection for unfair contract terms like that which is currently available to consumers in Victoria and the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union," Mr Bowen said.

"This means that for the first time, all Australian consumers will have protection from unfair contract terms.

"The new Australian Consumer Law will allow consumers and the consumer watchdog to take action against contract terms that cause detriment or a substantial likelihood of detriment to consumers.

"The unfair contract terms regulation will cover standard-form contracts like those consumers would be used to signing for their utilities, mobile phones and bank accounts.

"There is no sensible reason why Australians should have to wait any longer for protection from unfair contract terms, hence the Rudd Government's move to fast-track legislation introducing the new consumer protections.

"The legislative package will also include new powers for the consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, including:

  • Civil pecuniary penalties;
  • Disqualification orders;
  • Infringement notices
  • Substantiation notices;
  • Public warning notices; and
  • Court orders to seek redress for consumers who aren't party to a particular action."

The Consumer Affairs Minister also launched an information and consultation paper on the new Australian Consumer Law at the Monash Centre for Regulatory Studies in Melbourne.

"The creation of the Australian Consumer Law fulfils the agreement reached by the Australian, State and Territory Governments at the Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting last October," Mr Bowen said.

"The Commonwealth is also keen to advance, as part of the Australian Consumer Law, 'best practice' components of the State and Territory Fair Trading Acts.

"There is no question that the consumer protection provisions of the Trade Practices Act can be enhanced and I look forward continuing to talk with State and Territory Ministers as well as business and consumer groups about how this can be done most effectively."

The Minister also proposed changing the name of the Trade Practices Act to the 'Competition and Consumer Act' to better reflect the protections the law gives to Australian consumers.

Submissions on the Australian Consumer Law are due by the 17th March 2009 and those interested in providing their views can obtain a copy of the paper on the Treasury website and the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs website.

Attachment: An Australian Consumer Law Brochure