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Consumer Protection Laws in Australia

Consumer Protection

Consumer protection refers to a group of organisations and laws which are designed to ensure that the rights of the consumers are adhered to as well as fair trade, accurate information and competition are preserved in the marketplace (Corones, p. 33). These laws are mainly put in place to prevent businesses which engage in fraud or unfair business practices to have an advantage over their rivals. They also ensure that those vulnerable in the society are protected against the unscrupulous companies. Also, consumer protection laws are mainly a form of laws which Australian government uses to protect consumers within its economy and ensure that all businesses preserve their rights (Corones, p. 55). For instance, the government may instruct and require all the companies to disclose all their information of how they conduct their day to day activities and their products more so in areas where public safety is highly needed like food.

Consumer protection is mainly linked to the idea of consumer rights as well as the formation of the organisations which aim at protecting consumers and helping consumers when they have complaints. These organisations also help consumers make the right choices in the marketplace. There are also other organisations which promote consumers’ protection like government organisations as well as regulatory bodies. In Australia, the consumer protection organisations or agencies are Australian Competition as well as Consumer Commission including the State Consumer Affairs agencies.

Reasons for Protecting Consumers

There are some of the scenarios where it is necessary for the government to offer protection and restriction and one of them is consumer protection. A regular consumer has a right to security about the services and products which are being purchased in the marketplace. Also, there are many reasons why the government has to protect consumers. These are the reasons why consumers are protected:

Firstly, the government has to protect the consumers against the poor quality of products which consumers might not know. Firms rarely sell shoddy goods on purpose. However, without the government quality checks, some of the firms might be tempted to produce some of their products using low-quality raw materials which will cause them to be defective. Such type of production can only be prevented if consumers file a complaint and proper means put in place by the government is used to solve the problem. Through government protection, low quality production by any manufacturer can cause close-down of the company.

Secondly, the government does so as to help in stopping unethical business practices. The modern business sector is competitive. Regarding this, any unscrupulous manufacturer might use any means to produce their products without regard to the health of its consumers. Unethical practices can result in incredible bad services which can harm consumers. In such cases, the government plays a crucial role in providing the public with necessary information about what constitutes defective products and inadequate services. They also use their legal personnel to educate consumers on their rights and how they can achieve redress in such situations. In the event of unethical practices government legal staff offer help to customers in preparing a case to go before the Small Claims Courts where the manufacturers will be made liable for their unethical actions. These actions contribute to reducing the number of manufacturers who act unethically in their businesses.

Thirdly, the government also ensures that the consumer justice is done. States have different laws which protect consumers. Manufacturers sometimes ignore These laws. One of the roles which the government can play is using correspondence. A countrywide attorney can send a letter which tells a business of its defective product. Such move can cause reimbursement of the plan member. Also, the letter can alert the store to the problem so that the business can take the products off the shelves. Removing bad merchandise will ensure that others cannot purchase them accidentally. Also, any assistance of the attorney to a complaint filed with the consumer protection can result to a public agency stepping in to resolve the issue.

Fourthly, the government does so to keep the consumers safe. Defective products can harm the consumers as they are dangerous. Companies can sell defective products with the aim of making profits despite the consumers’ welfare. Also, some of the products can result in unnecessary health issues when they are defective. An example is faulty food products. If a retailer outlet sells expired food, it will cause health problems to the consumers. The safety of the consumers is in the hands of the government. Thus the government ensures that safe products are sold hence safeguarding the security of the consumers.

Therefore, the government has to protect the consumers so that they can guarantee that consumers have understandable and timely information to make responsible purchasing decisions, reduce unnecessary and outdated as well as burdensome business regulations and protect consumers from unfair as well as deceptive including deceptive practices from unscrupulous traders (Corones, p. 113). Moreover, they ensure that there is a fair competition through enforcement of the consumer financial laws as well as ensuring that there are advanced consumer products including services which operate efficiently and transparently with easy access.

History of Australian Consumer Protection Law

The Australian consumer law developed due to the agreement of the Council of the Australian Governments. The provisions of this consumer law mainly reflect the provisions which were previously afforded by the Trade Practices Act of the year 1974, though there are some of the protections which have been added. Moreover, the Australian Consumer Law mainly reflects most of the protection provisions of the consumers of the fair trading legislation in each territory and each state.

The Australian Consumer Law and the Trade Practices Amendment Act of 2010 were the first Acts to implement the current Australian Consumer Law. On 17th March 2010, the Act was passed by Commonwealth Parliament which as followed by Australian Consumer Law or the Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No. 2) on 24th June in 2010.

Moreover, the Trade Practices Act 1974 changed its previous name to Competition and Consumer Act 2010 when the amendments came into existence on 1st January 2011. It resulted to a new Consumer Law in Australia.

These two enactments, as well as the passage of the State and Territory laws which apply to the Australian Consumer Law including new Trade Practices Regulations, have established consistent Commonwealth, Territory and State consumer laws.

Current Consumer Protection Issues

The current consumer affairs minister in Australia is considered about imposing a severe financial penalty to the firm which will breach its laws. The Australian Consumer Law has warned of a more serious penalty to any firm which will breach the consumer law. If these changes go through, it means that the firms will have to pay serious penalties, unlike the current sanctions.

Currently, ACL is one national law which applies in the same way in every state and territory nationally. It is the main consumer protection law, in Australia. Under this ACL law all the buyers within Australia have the same expectation and protection about the conduct of businesses within the country. At the same time, businesses and firms have the same responsibilities and obligations whenever they operate within Australia. ACL cover various things. These include:

  • A main consumer protection provision which prohibits deceptive conduct or misleading as well as unfair terms in the standard form consumer contracts.

  • Given protections against some of the defined unfair practises, which include particular instances of deceptive or misleading conduct, unsolicited supply of goods as well as services, pyramid selling, provision of receipts and bills as well as component pricing.

  • A nation-wide law for safety of the consumer product.

  • Regulations of some of consumer transactions which include a national legal system for unsolicited selling.

  • Consumer reparation provisions as well as robust enforcement.

  • The Australian Consumer Law is a general law which is primarily designed to apply to business conduct across all sectors. It is supported by specific consumer laws within the industry at the Commonwealth as well as State and Territory level where it is appropriate and reasonable.

Therefore, it is vital that the businesses which deal with the consumers treat them fairly and appropriately. These companies should take a particular care whenever they are dealing with vulnerable consumers or disadvantaged consumers. Some of the consumers currently may be susceptible like those who are intellectually disabled. The role of ACL currently is to set out various protections for obligations and consumers which apply to businesses when they are dealing with customers. Furthermore, ACL regulators expect that the companies and businesses which are dealing with consumers who are intellectually disadvantaged will act in a fair and open and that these businesses will comply with their obligations. Where these businesses try to take advantage of the consumers, ACL comes in to control and protect disadvantaged consumers from being exploited.

Consumer Complaint Resolution

There may arise a breaching of the consumer right and when a consumer notices so, the consumer will have to forward the complaint through the right channel. Any consumer with a complaint should always try to resolve the problem with the business, service provider, manufacturer, retailer or any other seller. However, government agencies like Ombudsman Offices, the ACCC as well as the industry-based dispute resolution schemes which mainly provide assistance to any dissatisfied Australian consumer who has not been satisfied by the manner the problem has been dealt with by the business during direct negotiation.

It is always vital for the complaint to be in writing, more so when the consumer has been fobbed off by the business or trader when they are first approached with the complaint. One advantage of the written complaint is that if the problem fails to be resolved through negotiation and the consumer decides to take the matter to an external body, the letter will serve as evidence that the consumer has approached the trader. Also, where the trader agrees verbally to take action, it is vital to put it in writing for confirmation of the arrangement in future.

There are two options which a consumer can choose to solve his or her complaint. It can be resolved in court and out of court. It is sometimes essential for the consumer to get independent legal advice concerning the options which are available and what it suits for circumstances. A legal aid office, legal community center or a legal personnel e.g. a lawyer can provide advice. One can also be entitled to take his or her complaint to Tribunal or small claims court in his or her state or territory. However, when dealing with a claim involving large sums of money, it may be effective if the consumer takes a private legal system. Getting a legal advice is essential, and it is not always a guarantee that a consumer will win the case in court.


A substitute to the tribunal or traditional court system is to make use of the private dispute resolution systems. There are various schemes which operate in various industries in Australia. Here are some of the examples:

  • Energy Ombudsman Tasmania facilitates resolution and undertakes investigations of the complaints as well as disputes by the consumers against gas, electricity and water providers.

  • Financial Ombudsman Service facilitates resolution and undertakes investigations of the complaints as well as disputes by the consumers against financial service sector including banks as well as their affiliates, funds management,
    financial advice, life insurance providers, stockbroking, investment advice, providers of the superannuation, and investment products (Corones, p. 587).

  • The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman facilitates resolution and undertakes investigations of the complaints as well as disputes by the consumers against Telecommunication firms and providers including mobile phone, landline as well as internet service providers. However, TIO does not investigate complaints which are more than 12 months old except in a special circumstance or in an event that legal proceedings has begun.

  • The Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) facilitates resolution and undertakes investigations of the complaints as well as disputes by the consumers against Retirement Saving Accounts, annuities, deferred annuities as well as superannuation funds. SCT mainly ensures that a complaint is resolved through conciliation. If conciliation cannot be reached between the two sides, SCT considers submissions of the complaint and makes a determination which is binding to both sides. However, determination can be appealed in the Federal Court.

All these organisations are independent, and there are no charges for their services. Also, they are less formal, and they are mainly faster than courts and tribunals. When these schemes are resolving various disputes, they are required to ensure that they uphold the law.

Therefore, businesses have a great responsibility for the safety of the products which they sell or supply. Also, the government has a role in protecting the consumers from unethical and unsafe business practices. Thus, consumer protection mainly comprises of the laws which are designed to ensure that the rights of the consumers are adhered to as well as fair trade, accurate information and competition are preserved in the marketplace.

Work Cited

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Corones, S G. The Austalian Consumer Law. Rozelle, N.S.W: Lawbook Co, 2012. Print.

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