The Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs supports the
development and implementation of a new harmonised, generic
consumer law for all Australian jurisdictions.
This represents a landmark development in national
product safety reform.
The Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs (MCCA) comprises
Commonwealth, State, Territory and New Zealand Ministers for
fair trading, consumer protection laws, trade measurement and
credit laws. It is responsible for advancing consumer affairs
and fair trading matters of strategic national significance
and, where possible, for developing a consistent approach to
those issues. It meets once a year to discuss these issues.
This year's meeting was convened shortly after the
completion of a comprehensive review of Australia's
consumer product policy framework which culminated in the
publication of a
report by the Productivity Commission.
At its meeting on 23 May 2008, the MCCA agreed a significant
agenda to reform Australia's product safety regulatory
arrangements. In characterising the Productivity
Commission's recommendations as "a unique
opportunity to develop a new national approach to consumer
policy", the MCCA
declared that such reforms "would serve to overcome
inefficiencies resulting from the division of responsibilities
between Australian Governments."
The MCCA canvassed a number of issues which impact upon the
safety of consumer products including its review of the
Australian Consumer Product Safety System, the Productivity
Commission's review, statutory warranties under the
Trade Practices Act (TPA) and State/Territory fair
trading/goods legislation and wine labelling reforms. In
particular, the MCCA agreed that :
the Commonwealth should assume responsibility for making
permanent product bans and issuing standards under the TPA,
but the States and Territories should retain the power to
issue interim product bans for 60 days. At its meeting on 3
July 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG)
agreed with this proposal.
the ACCC and jurisdictional fair trading offices should
share responsibility for enforcement of the product safety
law (in contrast to the Productivity Commission's
jurisdictions should raise awareness amongst consumers
and businesses of the implied statutory warranties in the TPA
and fair trading/goods legislation. This follows the
Productivity Commission's recommendation. The MCCA
acknowledged that these provisions are dated and that, in the
longer term, a comprehensive review of warranty law is needed
"with the aim of developing clear codified law that can
be applied nationally."
it is committed to meeting COAG's deadline of
October 2008 for developing enhanced national processes to
improve the consumer policy framework.
it will support the development and implementation of a
new harmonised, generic consumer law for all Australian
jurisdictions and will work towards determining the best
legislative model to create and maintain a uniform
Commonwealth and State/Territory consumer law.
the Standing Committee of Officials of Consumer Affairs
(SCOCA) will prepare a response to the Productivity
Commission's April 2008 report and will provide this
to the MCCA. The MCCA will meet in August 2008 in order to
finalise this response.
The MCCA anticipates that the revised regulatory
arrangements will be fully implemented by mid 2010 and that
they will be reviewed by MCCA two years after commencement.
Between now and 2010, the MCCA, together with COAG,
will develop the changes needed to implement this new
system. Moreover, in order to alleviate regulatory burdens on
business, the MCCA
is aiming to undertake a review of existing product bans
and mandatory standards in order to ensure that the bans and
standards that apply across jurisdictions are aligned.
The content of this article is intended to provide a
general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should
be sought about your specific circumstances.
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The Sportscraft refunds and returns policy limitations went beyond consumer's rights under the Australian Consumer Law.
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