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Make it your business to exercise good behaviour

Australian Consumer Law and your Business

By Lynda Lim DE Senior Litigation Lawyer.

If you are a business owner, you will be aware that that as of 1 January 2011, all Australian businesses have had the same rights and responsibilities under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL applies nationally and in all States and Territories and to all Australian businesses.

The expectation has been that every business is obliged to honour its obligations and respect a customer’s rights under the ACL.

To recap, the ACL includes:

  • A national unfair contract terms law governing standard form consumer contracts
  • A national law guaranteeing consumer rights when purchasing goods and services
  • A national product safety law and enforcement system
  • A national law for unsolicited consumer agreements covering door-to-door sales and telephone sales
  • Simple national rules for lay-by agreements, and
  • New penalties, enforcement power and consumer redress options.

Although most businesses comply with the law, all businesses should keep in mind they are required to meet general standards of business conduct, as well as comply with specific protections for consumers against unfair business practice. These include:

  • Using standard form contracts that do not contain unfair terms
  • Honouring customer guarantees
  • Ensuring the safety of products and services, and
  • Complying with rules on sales practices, including those on prices, consumer information, lay by agreements and unsolicited consumer agreements.

We now take the opportunity to look more closely at examples of unfair business practices:

Misleading or deceptive conduct

It is unlawful for a business to make statements in trade or commerce that are misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive. Business conduct is likely to break the law if it creates a misleading overall impression about price, value or quality of customer goods or services.

False or misleading representations

A business cannot make false or misleading representations about goods and services when supplying, offering to supply or promoting those goods or services.

Unconscionable conduct

Unconscionable conduct is generally a statement or action so unreasonable it defies good conscience. Examples of unconscionable conduct include not properly explaining the conditions of a contract to a person who does not speak English or has a learning disability, not allowing sufficient time to read an agreement, ask questions or obtain advice or failing to disclose key contractual terms.

Representation about country of origin

Businesses must not make false or misleading representations about the country of origin of goods. A representation can include words, pictures or both indicating that goods were made, produced or grown in a particular country.

Information standards

Information standards regulate the type and amount of information provided to consumers about goods and services. Supplying goods and services that do not comply with an information standard is an offence.

If you are a business owner and you wish to check your business is operating in accordance with the ACL, please contact Senior Litigation Lawyer, Lynda Lim, for a full and frank discussion.