Australian Consumer Law stage 2 passed

The Trade Practices Amendment (Australian Consumer Law) Bill (No 2) 2010 has been passed by Parliament.

The Bill represents stage 2 of amendments to the Trade Practices Act 1974 (TP Act) as part of a plan to create a single national consumer law for Australia, including a national product safety law. Part 1 will start on 1 July 2010.

The Bill changes the name of the TP Act to the “Competition and Consumer Act 2010″.

The Bill’s changes include:

  • incorporating the fair trading and consumer protection provisions of the TP Act into the ACL, including unfair contract terms and provisions implementing enhanced enforcement powers, penalties and redress options;
  • creating a national legislative scheme for consumer product safety, to replace the existing Commonwealth, State and Territory regulatory schemes;
  • creating a national legislative scheme for statutory consumer guarantees, to replace the existing Commonwealth and State and Territory legislation concerning implied conditions and warranties in consumer transactions; and
  • augmenting the fair trading and consumer protection provisions of the TP Act with changes drawn from existing provisions of the consumer laws of the States and Territories.

Government amendments in the Senate included:

  • returning the definition of a ‘consumer’ (which applies to provisions of the ACL dealing with consumer guarantees,
    unsolicited consumer agreements, lay-by sales, the provision of itemised bills, continuing credit contracts and linked credit
    contracts) to apply to any person that purchases goods and services below $40,000 in value;
  • as a consequence of the aforementioned amendment, allow suppliers and manufacturers to limit their liability in respect of goods not ordinarily acquired for personal, domestic or household use or consumption that fail to meet the standards
    required by consumer guarantees (in line with existing sections 68A and 74L of the TP Act);
  • clarifying that a consumer may choose to terminate a contract for the supply of services that are connected to goods that have been rejected;
  • clarifying that the obligation upon a supplier to refund monies in respect of services when connected goods have been rejected extends only to services that have not yet been consumed;
  • clarifying that the scope of the definition of an ‘unsolicited consumer agreement’ includes situations where a consumer provides contact information to a supplier for purposes other than soliciting goods or services (such as entering a
    competition) or where a consumer contacts a supplier in response to a failed attempt by a supplier to contact them (missed call marketing); and
  • clarifying that a supplier is entitled to recover certain amounts from a consumer if an unsolicited consumer agreement is terminated.

UPDATE: Bill assented to on 13 July 2010.

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