Reform of Australia’s consumer product safety regulatory arrangements

The Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs (MCCA) has agreed to
implement significant reform of Australia’s consumer product safety
regulatory arrangements, for the benefit of consumers and businesses. (see the communique)

The reforms will:

  • remove legal uncertainty for businesses operating across
    state borders by creating a single national law for product safety,
    including product bans, standards and recalls;
  • enhance
    protection for consumers by allowing the Australian Competition and
    Consumer Commission and the State and Territory offices of fair trading
    to jointly enforce the national law; and
  • reduce regulatory
    overlap by giving the Commonwealth sole responsibility for making
    permanent product bans and safety standards.  The States and
    Territories will retain the power to issue interim product bans, which
    would remain in effect for 60 days with a capacity for a 30 day
    extension if necessary.

It is anticipated that the revised regulatory arrangements  will be fully implemented by 2010.

Ministers also agreed in principle to:

  • Support the development and implementation of a new national harmonised, generic consumer law to apply in all Australian jurisdictions, based on the consumer protection provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA), with appropriate amendments which recognize best practice in state legislation.
  • Identify provisions in existing State/Territory fair trading laws which should be retained as part of a national generic consumer law and consider the need for new provisions which would enhance the TPA into the future. This would include consideration of provisions dealing with unfair contract terms and heightened enforcement powers, as identified by the Productivity Commission and provisions on naming and shaming as discussed by the States and Territories.
  • reform the scheme of mandatory comparison rates in the Consumer Credit Code. There was in principle agreement to repeal the requirement to provide consumers with “schedules” of comparison rates, while the format and calculation of comparison rates in credit advertisements will be substantially revised. The Review will be released publicly.
  • the Commonwealth Government initiate a review of the implied terms/statutory warranty regime in the Trade Practices Act 1974 and state and territory fair trading/goods legislation with the aim of developing clear codified law that can be applied nationally.
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