Australian governments have agreed to introduce a national,
cohesive framework for consumer protection laws.
As part of a jam-packed agenda, the Council of Australian
Governments (COAG) meeting in Perth on 2 October took the next
steps towards implementing plans for a national, cohesive framework
for consumer protection laws in Australia.
This is the latest in a series of steps taken by COAG and the
Ministerial Council of Consumer Affairs in light of the
Productivity Commission's Review of
Australia's Consumer Policy Framework report which was
handed down earlier this year. One of the
key outcomes of the Ministerial Council's 15 August 2008
meeting was to provide high level support for the Productivity
Commission's proposals, and a range of reforms were
adopting a uniform national consumer law (based on the
provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth)), incorporating
amendments "reflecting best practice in state and territory
implementation of a single consumer policy objective across all
provision for joint enforcement of the new laws by both the
ACCC and State and Territory fair trading offices
providing a mechanism for judging unfair contract terms in
standard form contracts (ie. non-negotiated contracts)
enhancing the enforcement powers for the new laws by providing
civil pecuniary penalties (eg. recovery of profits from illegal
measures to enable regulators such as the ACCC to bring
representative actions (class actions) on behalf of consumers not
party to court proceedings; and
improving information sharing, to result in better informed
consumers, and more clear channels of communication between federal
and state/territory regulators.
COAG has now paved the way forward for widespread legislative
reform with its apparent endorsement of these recommendations in
Perth. The communiqué states that "COAG also agreed to
a new consumer policy framework comprising a single national
consumer law based on the Trade Practices Act 1974, drawing on the
recommendations of the Productivity Commission and best practice in
State and Territory consumer laws, including a provision regulating
unfair contract terms."
"The new national consumer law will deliver on COAG's
commitment to a seamless national economy by providing a uniform
and higher level of protection for Australian consumers and
addressing weaknesses in existing laws. The new policy framework
will improve consumer law enforcement powers, reduce compliance
costs for business and increase access to information regarding
dispute resolution and consumer issues."
We understand that both COAG and the Ministerial Council are
keen to see these reforms introduced swiftly, with efforts being
made to see the changes implemented by the end of 2011. We expect
further developments when COAG next meets on Monday 17 November
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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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