Australia: Federal Government Launches Online Consumer Protection Consultation

As part of its broader review into the adequacy of current laws on implied terms in both federal and State/territory legislation, the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council has this month released an issues paper entitled Consumer rights: Statutory implied conditions and warranties. The paper aims to stimulate discussion and seek the views of interested stakeholders in relation to the rights and obligations of consumers and businesses under contracts for the sale of goods and services and, in particular, those contracts entered into using the internet.

The review stems from a recommendation by the Productivity Commission in 2008 that the adequacy of existing legislation related to implied conditions and warranties (implied terms) should be examined. Although the focus of the review is on implied terms (their adequacy and the need for any amendments), the CCAAC is required under its terms of reference to consider any other means for improving the operation of existing statutory conditions and warranties in Australia. This may be achieved, for example, through the introduction of new laws such as so-called "lemon laws" - laws to protect consumers who purchase goods that continually fall below expected performance and quality standards - and laws dealing specifically with selling goods and services over the internet. The aim of the consultation is to "inform the development of the Australian Consumer Law led by the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs".

Except for in Victoria (pursuant to the Victorian Fair Trading Act), there is no Australian federal or State/territory jurisdiction which provides specific protection for consumers (and the corresponding obligations on sellers) with respect to implied terms in online transactions. Existing regulation is based on a combination of both existing consumer protection legislation regimes across each Australian jurisdiction and voluntary codes such as the Australian Direct Marketing Association's Direct Marketing Code of Practice.

Additionally, in relation to express terms (such as the express terms which are to apply to an online transaction as set out in the supplier's website terms of use, which constitutes the contract of sale), Australian suppliers are free to determine the manner in which they "agree" their contracts of sale with customers - for example, by the use of "click-wrap" or "browser-wrap" terms and conditions. It is clear that the CCAAC views the information online traders provide on their websites as an important source of central influence to a consumer's purchasing decisions and the fairness of a supplier's trading practices, and the consistency of those practices with consumer rights.

Against the background of these terms of reference of the CCAAC consultation, it seems likely that as part of the proposed Australian Consumer Law the Federal Government may seek to introduce specific regulations in some form aimed at improving the operation of existing statutory terms in Australia in the context of online transactions.

There are some existing models that the CCAAC will no doubt assess. The regime under the Victorian Fair Trading Act requires sellers to provide certain information to consumers before an online sales agreement can be made, including any rights the consumer has to cancel the agreement and how these rights can be exercised, and the full name and contact details of the supplier. The regime that applies in the United Kingdom is pursuant to the implementation of the European Union's Distance Selling Directive (2000/31/EC) in the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling Regulations) 2000, and requires online traders to disclose the main characteristics of the product and other information.

Of potential concern to online traders in Australia would be the introduction of a cooling-off period of the type provided in the UK, which in general allows a consumer to return certain goods within seven working days after receipt of those goods. The CCAAC's issues paper cites this as a way of helping to address some of the issues which are unique to consumers shopping online, such as the inability of consumers to examine the products before purchasing or to disclose to a salesperson a particular purpose for which they are buying the product and seek advice on the suitability of the product.

In this context, suppliers should also take note that the CCAAC's view, as expressed in the issues paper, is that attempts to exclude the statutory condition that goods must be fit for their purpose are likely to be misleading and deceptive, and contrary to law under sections 52 and 68 of the Trade Practices Act. This is not controversial or novel, although the Paper goes on to say that clauses which state that the online trader cannot ensure, and has no responsibility for the accuracy of information on their website (including product descriptions), may be inconsistent with consumers' rights (under sections 68 and 70 of the Trade Practices Act). Such clauses are not uncommon and may require revision, particularly after the outcomes of the review are implemented.

The issues paper can be found in full online. Responses to the issues paper are requested by 5.00pm on Monday 24 August 2009. If you would like more information about any of the issues outlined here, or would like assistance formulating and lodging a response to the issues paper, please contact HopgoodGanim's Technology, Intellectual Property and Outsourcing team.

© HopgoodGanim Lawyers

Australia's Best Value Professional Services Firm - 2005 and 2006 BRW-St.George Client Choice Awards

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.