The Federal Government is reviewing submissions into the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) review, with an interim report due to be released in the second half of the year.

Conducted by Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ), the review began on 31 March with the release of an Issues Paper. Submissions closed on 27 May.

Introduced in 2011, the ACL is the uniform Commonwealth, State and Territory consumer protection law. Its objectives are to:

  • ensure that consumers are sufficiently well-informed to benefit from and stimulate effective competition
  • ensure that goods and services are safe and fit for the purposes for which they were sold
  • prevent practices that are unfair
  • meet the needs of those consumers who are most vulnerable or are at the greatest disadvantage
  • provide accessible and timely redress where consumer detriment has occurred, and
  • promote proportionate, risk-based enforcement.

There are three aspects to the review:

  • The review will assess the effectiveness of the provisions of the ACL, whether these provisions are operating as intended, and address the risk of consumer and business detriment at an appropriate level of regulatory burden. These provisions include but may not be limited to:
    • general prohibitions against misleading or deceptive conduct, unconscionable conduct and unfair terms in consumer contracts
    • prohibitions against specific ‘unfair practices’, including bait advertising, referral selling, unsolicited supplies of goods and services, pyramid selling and component pricing
    • the system of statutory consumer guarantees
    • the national product safety framework, and
    • enforcement powers, penalties and remedies applying under the ACL.
  • The review will also consider the extent to which the national consumer policy framework has met the objectives articulated by COAG. This will include:
    • assessing whether the existing institutional, administrative and regulatory structures underpinning the ACL, such as the ‘multiple regulator model’ and the coordinated enforcement, education, policy, research and advocacy approach of the Commonwealth and states and territories, are effective and efficient in supporting a single national consumer policy framework
    • considering the interface between the national consumer policy framework and other legislation, its jurisdiction and reach, including whether there are legislative gaps, duplication or inconsistencies with industry-specific and other laws, including opportunities to reduce unnecessary compliance costs on businesses, individuals and the community while maintaining adequate levels of consumer protection, and
    • examining changes in consumer and business awareness of their respective rights, protections and obligations, including access to information about dispute resolution and consumer issues, since the implementation of the ACL.

The review will assess the flexibility of the ACL to respond to new and emerging issues to ensure it remains relevant into the future as the overarching consumer policy framework in Australia.

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