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Consumer Law framework open for debate

January 07, 2017


The Australian Government’s Productivity Commission is undertaking a study of the current administration and enforcement of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Their main task is to examine the effectiveness of the multiple-regulator model in supporting a single national consumer policy framework, and to make findings on how the model can be strengthened.

Matters to be addressed include: 

  • developing a national database of consumer complaints and incidents
  • providing all State and Territory ACL regulators with the full suite of enforcement tools
  • increasing maximum financial penalties for breaches of the ACL
  • exempting interim product bans from Commonwealth regulatory impact assessments
  • centralising powers for interim product bans and compulsory recalls in the ACCC
  • improving the transparency of the resourcing and performance of the ACL regulators.

In a media release published on December 8, the Productivity Commission announced that “the report calls for the States and Territories to relinquish their rarely used powers to issue interim bans and compulsory recalls in relation to unsafe products, to make it clearer that it is the ACCC’s job to respond when a problem emerges that may warrant a ban or recall under the Australian Consumer Law”.

Commissioner Julie Abramson said that Australia “has an increasingly national market for goods, and consumers and businesses are entitled to expect the same response wherever the product is available. There is also the case for some ‘red tape reform’ to make the national process faster”.

“Having 10 separate regulatory agencies to administer one consumer law, plus a multitude of specialist regulators in areas like food safety, electrical appliances and building products, could give rise to confusion, duplication, inconsistency and ineffective enforcement.”

But the report says that the maximum penalties for a breach of the consumer law, currently $1.1 million for a company and $220,000 for an individual, are often seen as insignificant when compared to the commercial returns gained and are out of step with penalties currently available under the Competition laws.

Full details can be found in the draft report here.

NRA Have Your Say


The National Retail Association will be making a submission on behalf of its members and is interested in hearing your views for inclusion.

Please forward your feedback to us by 18 January 2017.

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