31 December 2011

The New Year Brings Changes to the Australian Consumer Law

On 1 January 2012, consumers will be provided with additional protections under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), said the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury.

"Over the past 12 months there have been some notable improvements to the ACL to provide greater protection to Australian consumers in the areas of unconscionable conduct and unsolicited selling.

"The changes clarifying the scope of the prohibition on unconscionable conduct commence on 1 January 2012 and will make it easier for consumers, businesses and the courts to understand and apply the unconscionable conduct provisions of the ACL.

The New Year also marks the end of the transitional provisions relating to unsolicited consumer agreements. From 1 January 2012 all Australian consumers will be entitled to a 10-day cooling off period in relation to unsolicited sales during which time neither goods nor services will be permitted to be supplied or paid for.

Where the value of goods that are the subject of an unsolicited consumer agreement is less than $500 the supply of the goods will be permitted, however, payment for unsolicited sales will continue to be prohibited during the 10-day cooling off period.

"If a consumer invokes their right to terminate the unsolicited agreement during the cooling off period where the goods under $500 have been supplied, the supplier will be obliged to collect the goods within 30 days or the goods become the consumer's property.

"In addition, consumers will also be provided with clear and accurate information about cooling off rights when they purchase goods or services from telemarketers or from door-to-door salespersons.

"The New Year also marks the one year anniversary of the harmonisation of Australia's consumer protection laws into the ACL - a single national law - which represents the most significant development in consumer policy in a generation, said Mr Bradbury.

"The first year of the ACL has been a great success. Replacing twenty laws with one national law has improved consumer protection and reduced business compliance costs.

"The ACL has improved consumer protection in Australia as consumers have the same rights wherever they are in Australia.

"The ACL also means that consumer protection agencies, both State and Federal, can now more effectively co-ordinate their efforts under the ACL. 2011 saw a number of national incidents dealt with by prompt co operative action by consumer agencies to ensure compliance with the ACL, including the Queensland floods, the Qantas grounding and many recalls and bans of unsafe products.

"The move to the ACL has also reduced compliance costs for national businesses that now only need to comply with one law, which is so important in today's internationally competitive retail environment.

"The new year also marks the expiry of some other transitional provisions that were put into place when the ACL commenced to allow businesses time to adjust to the new requirements.

"Requirements to provide additional information to consumers about statutory consumer guarantees if offering a warranty will also apply from 1 January 2012. This initiative will ensure that consumers are not misled into thinking that their rights are limited by the terms of warranties offered by the manufacturers or suppliers of products."

Further information about the ACL can be found at www.consumerlaw.gov.au.

31 December 2011