It is not uncommon for businesses to advertise a headline price for goods and services to their customers, and to only disclose optional costs in the fine print or in a manner that is not necessarily clear to customers. This is no longer permitted. Some businessess will need to change their pricing practices, particularly businesses selling goods online.
The Treasury Laws Amendment (Australian Consumer Law Review) Bill 2018 amends the Australian Consumer Law contained within the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, and imposes an obligation on businesses operating in Australia to ensure transparent pricing for consumers. As of 26 October 2019, businesses must display the total price for the goods and services including all pre-selected optional items. In other words, if optional components are pre-selected or automatically applied by the seller, these options must be included in the headline price. The customer then has the option to remove the pre-selected options selected in order to pay a lower price.
These new laws will especially affect businesses who sell goods and services online. The Explanatory Memorandum to the new legislation provides some helpful examples in relation to airlines. For example, if an airline fare is $500 and a website pre-selects an optional carbon offset fee of $5, then the headline price must be $505, not $500. However, if the carbon offset fee is not pre-selected or automatically applied, then the ticket can be advertised at $500.
The same approach is applicable for promotions which display only a portion of the total price. Businesses must ensure that the total price is displayed just as clearly as the fractional price. Essentially, the new laws aim to avoid the situation where headline prices are advertised initially, but once the customer clicks through the website the price is increased to include pre-selected options and charges.
Businesses should ensure that their pricing strategies conform with the new laws.
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