Consumer Law in Australia

Consumer law is Australia is provided through the Commonwealth, Competition and Consumer Act 2010.  The Australian Consumer Law can be found in schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act.  This Competition and Consumer Act has been largely incorporated into State and Territory based consumer law legislation.  That is why in Australia, for the most part we have a unified consumer law.  Parts of the Australian Consumer Law apply to trade or commerce including trade between businesses and some parts of the consumer law only apply to consumers.  There are limits on who is classified as a consumer depending on the type of item being purchased, what the item is being used for and the purchase price. 

It is important to be aware of the Australian Consumer Law as there can be severe penalties for breaching consumer laws in addition to developing a bad reputation.  Our business lawyers can assist you with Australian Consumer Law legal advice, legal representation and claims.  We recommend that if you are commencing a business or are a manufacturer, distributor, merchandiser, importer, wholesaler or retailer that you regularly review your obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.  Our business lawyers can assist you with consumer law legal advice.

Common Areas Governed by the Australian Consumer Law

The following list is not exhaustive.  This list provides common areas regulated in business and trade and for consumers under the Australian Consumer Law.

  • The relationship between consumers, and businesses or traders who provide products and or services
  • Businesses and traders who provide products and or services to other businesses or traders
  • The conduct of persons, businesses, and traders in relation to misleading, deceptive or dishonest conduct
  • Bait advertising (for example, advertising a special price on a product where there are too few products available for purchase)
  • False and misleading advertising or conduct
  • Product pricing and lay-by
  • Rebates, Gifts and Prizes
  • Statutory consumer guarantees that the law requires businesses and traders to provide with goods or services
  • Safety standards, safety notices and product recalls
  • Liability of manufactures where goods have safety defects and defective goods actions
  • Fair pricing and advertising of products and services
  • Consumer contracts
  • Unfair contracts
  • Standard form contracts (a contract where a consumer is not able to change the contract because it comes in a standard form only)
  • Sales tactics such as high-pressure sales or where one party is disadvantaged as against the other

Australian Consumer Law regulates the conduct of persons, businesses and traders engaged in trade or commerce.  The Australian Consumer Law includes requirements that persons, businesses, and traders when engaged in commerce or trade:

  • Do not engage in misleading or deceptive conduct
  • Do not make false or misleading representations about goods or services including about a standard, quality, origin, value, grade, composition, style or model or have had a particular history or previous use
  • Do not engage in unconscionable conduct such as using a position of power, special relationship or disability to force or coerce.

Consumer Guarantees

The Australian Consumer Law provides special statutory guarantees to consumers where they are purchasing products and or services of a personal or domestic nature from a business or trader where the purchase price does not exceed $40,000 or for other specified goods.  The statutory guarantees under most circumstances require a business or trader to provide the goods or services to a consumer in conformity with the consumer guarantees which are listed below.​

Consumer Guarantees for Products and Goods

The following are a list of consumer guarantees that businesses that provide products and goods are required by law to provide to consumers.

  • That a consumer will receive full possession and title to the product or good
  • The products are of acceptable quality including:
    • Fit for the purpose which the good or product is commonly supplied for
    • Free from defects
    • Safe
    • Durable
  • That there are facilities for the repair of the goods and parts available for repair
  • The products match any description/model/sample provided
  • The products must do what the seller says they can do
  • The seller must provide a replacement or refund if the product stops working under some circumstances.

Consumer Guarantees for Services 

The following are a list of consumer guarantees that businesses who provide services are required by law to provide to consumers.

  • That the service has been provided with due care and skill
  • That the service is fit for the purpose that the consumer said to the provider the service will be used for
  • That the service has been provided within a reasonable time or as stipulated.

Consumer Contracts

The Australian Consumer Law regulates businesses and traders who provide standard form contract.  A contract cannot have unfair terms for the supply of goods or services or a sale or grant of an interest in land.  The Australian Consumer Law provides that consumers are not bound by unfair terms in contracts.  Whether a term is unfair depends on the contract, the transparency and the degree of harshness or unfairness of a term.  Unfair terms in contracts can include things like:

  • Unfair penalties
  • An imbalance in a parties’ rights and obligations
  • Allows one party but not the other to:
    • Avoid or limit their performance in the contract
    • Penalise the party for a breach or termination of the contract
    • Renew or not renew the contract
    • Interpret the words or meanings of the contract
    • Vary the goods or services to be supplied
  • Stops one party from suing the other party
  • A penalty for breaching or terminating the agreement
  • A term is not reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate interests of the party
  • The term would cause detriment

Australian Consumer Law can be complex and can regulate many aspects of business and trade.  Harsh penalties, damages, and liabilities can occur where the Australian Consumer Law is breached.  That’s why it’s important to seek qualified legal advice about your rights, duties, and obligations.

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