31 August 2023

Time’s up for tricky tactics

The Albanese Government has its sights on the tricky tactics that confuse and frustrate Australians, with the release of a new consultation paper into unfair trading practices.

Unfair trading practices can manipulate consumer choice and undermine competition, especially in the digital economy. They’re also just downright annoying.

Examples of unfair trading practices identified by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) include:

  • making it unnecessarily inconvenient to cancel an online subscription;
  • deliberately over‑disclosing product details to hide information consumers require to make an informed decision;
  • websites using crosses that look like they close a browser window but link to something else (like an ad) instead;
  • clickwrap agreements with take‑it‑or‑leave‑it terms and long disclaimers to get people to give consent to their data being used.

Small business can similarly be harmed by a range of under or unregulated practices.

Despite not passing the sniff test, many of these shifty tactics currently fall outside the reach of consumer law. Two recent ACCC inquiries have recommended a prohibition on unfair trading practices, and similar laws are already in place in the EU, the UK, the US and Singapore.

The Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (CRIS) can be found on the Treasury website with submissions welcome until 29 November 2023.