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Consumer Protection Laws in Australia

According to Trade Practice Act 1974, the most common definition of ‘Consumer’ is “a consumer is a person who attains goods and services of that type, which that person uses for household or personal consumption.” Consumer’s protections are basically the laws and statutes that the federal and provincial government governs to provide protections to the consumers during credit sales and purchase of consumer goods. These kinds of consumer protections disallow the producers to show immoral advertisements and to implement irregular practices of sales. These laws further regulate the producers regarding their quality of product and control other characteristics of transactions for example leases, debt collection system, and credit dealing, which are definitely related to the consumers. These protection laws further enable mediocre peoples to make business deals with those personnel who have daily strong business dealing in the World. In the past, it was the thinking of the people that only those personnel can make business or consumer dealing who have equal standards or position in the field. In 1960s, after the complaints of various consumers, the lawmakers came to a point that it has been noticing that mediocre consumers are at the back foot in the business dealings with huge corporations and industries that is why laws, statutes and law making agencies were established to protect that kind of mediocre consumers.

As the time passes, the needs of people are increasing, whether they are elastic needs or inelastic needs. People have routine contacts with different kind of goods and services for the fulfillment of their needs. As the needs of people are increasing so on the other side manufacturers of those goods and services are also increasing in the field. People not only want goods and services however they want quality goods and services, which raises the need for certain protection laws to best protect the interest of consumers. Consumers are also protected to ensure that they have access only to those products, which are safe for them. They are also protected to ensure that they have accurate information for making choices according to their specific needs and wishes. Moreover, consumers are protected so that they are empowered to have knowledge about their rights and how to enforce them. Consumer’s protection provides sure welfare to consumers and it also provides mutual standards for the producers and every kind of consumers. Not only consumer protection laws provides protection to consumers but competition laws for the manufacturers, industries and businesses also provide benefits to consumers. Competition provides lower or moderate prices, huge choices and improved or enhanced services to consumers and hence, it also generates complete welfare for the consumers. As earlier discuss that Consumers are also protected by themselves if they have knowledge about their rights and if the attain advice from some senior or experience personnel before making any such huge transaction. These protection laws also control the behavioral characteristics of suppliers or manufacturers, which will not only protect the interest of consumers but avoid the situations of disputes as well.

Before 18th century of Pre-industrial age, people are suffering from a situation of ‘Caveat Emptor’, which means let the buyer beware. There are few cities and people lived in rural areas where they used their own made goods and services. Therefore, at that time, protection was only limited with manufacturers related to measures and weights and consumers have to deal with self- protection methods. In the 18th century with the technological and industrial developments, peoples have to abandon their own manufactured goods and have to deal with industrial made item that was why they did not have knowledge about the quality of goods and services. In the 19th century, almost every kind of necessary goods have to be bought by the industries and hence, that would easily mislead the consumers with respect to quality and quantity and consumers have relied on ‘Caveat Emptor.’ Non-interference of government was at peak at that century i.e. ‘Laissez Faire’ and government did not interfere in the private dealings between producers and consumer. Thereafter, laws of supply and demand created an environment of injustice, which disregarded the consumers and provide disadvantages to them and for this a new law has been introduced in the late 19th century i.e.in 1893, Sales of Goods Act was passed by the British government and taken by the Australian government. However, this act was not sufficient for the consumers in terms of protection. In the 20th century, after the Second World War, existing industries become more sovereign and were on a track of growth that created consumer revolution with the more variety of goods and services. During the period of 1950s to 1960s, some prominent personalities such as Ralph Nader were the reason that consumers become aware of their rights. Moreover, in 1959, Australian consumer Association was established that empowered consumers about bargaining system. Later on ACA introduced Trade Practice Act in 1974, which provide huge range of remedies to consumers and had significant impact on the practices of business.

Currently in Australia, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) is operating in nationally and in all territories and in all states of Australia. The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) was commenced on 1 January, 2011 and before that every kind of transaction occurred has to be applied under those consumer laws, which were acting before ACL. The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) is operating in Australia under the joint administration of the state and territory consumer protection agencies and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). This consumer law is enforced by all tribunals and courts of Australia and the all tribunals and courts of all states and federal level. Moreover, Australian Consumer Law (ACL) is the replacement of previous legislation of Commonwealth, state and federal consumer protection that is why the protection in Australian Consumer Law (ACL) are present in the same manner as are the protection of Australian Securities and Investment Commission Act 2001 (ASIC Act) presented, hence, consumers related to financial goods and services are treated in the same manner. The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) was the key recommendation by the Productivity Commission 2008, which was the review of Consumer Policy Framework in Australia. This productivity commission has a view that Australian Consumer Law (ACL) will provide benefit to the community of Australia of around $1.5 billion to $4.5 billion. Through the Council of Australian Government (COAG), the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) is the accommodating modification of the Government of Australia and federal and the states.

The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) 2011 includes the following:

  1. Choices for consumer regarding Redress, penalties, and power to enforce.
  2. For lay-by contracts, there are simple national rules.
  3. Small business contracts and standard form of consumers are covered by a National Unfair contract terms law.
  4. Enforcement system and Australian product safety law.
  5. Telephone sales and door-to-door to sales is covered by the National Law for unsolicited consumer contracts.
  6. There is National Law that provides guarantees for consumers, when they are buying goods and services.

The common protections involve in the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), which creates the environment of standard business in the Australian community are; common ban on dishonest and ambiguous deportment in the business and trade, common ban on discriminating terms in consumer contracts. However, particular protections involve in the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), which creates notorious conduct of business are; particular ban on immoral conduct in consumer transactions, particular ban on discriminating practices in trade or business, protections regarding liability of producers for safety defected goods, protections regarding the establishment and enforcement of standards of information, and protection regarding consumers dealing for the goods and services. Again, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) is a general law, which applies in all states, federal, sectors and all jurisdictions of Australia in the same manner, hence, it means that all business in Australia have the same obligations and all consumer have the same rights to enjoy.

The earlier consumer law was not as affected easy to implement, as the new consumer law is affected and easy to implement. The new Australian Consumer Law (ACL) provides the consumer guarantees and warranties with single set of guarantees in the Trade Practice Act 1974. Moreover, these guarantees have clear and renovate the operations of those laws, which are on the consumer rights. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with the help of Competition Act and the Australian Consumer Law, ensures economic growth and reduction in poverty. It motivates productivity, inventions, and competitiveness to make an effective environment for the business, which will generate economic growth and employment in the economy. These laws enhance the attractiveness of the country as business venue, initiating foreign and national investments.

All consumers are prohibited by the New Australian Consumer Law (ACL) to engage in a contract with the unacceptable terms, when dealing with personnel in the course of trade or business. Therefore, if a consumer is dissatisfied with a goods and services then consumer has two specific choices, whether to contact with the supplier of goods or service provider directly or to contact with them legally i.e. by the way of court. Therefore, there is the duty of court to solve the case between consumer and supplier or producer with the help of new Australian Consumer Law 2011. There is also an option for the consumer to directly deal with supplier or service provider to send the goods again or do that specific job again. There are further two choices arises for the supplier or provider whether to offer a special discount to the consumer and if the service provider is not agree to do the job again then the provider may have choice to refund the whole or partial payment. On the other side, consumers have an option to cancel the contract straight away or to negotiate with supplier or provider outside the legal jurisdictions. If the conflict between consumer and supplier or provider still not resolved then consumer may have an option to consult the court that deals in this situation. According to the Australian constitution, the judicial system of Australia is very independent of other terms and methods of the government. This Australian constitution further explains that parliament and High court are empowered to make any other federal courts in this regard. The related case in this situation was happened back in 1893, which was between Carlill and Carbolic Smoke Ball (CSB) Co. In this specific case, CSB Co made an advertisement that if someone still contracted by influenza after the usage of that remedy made by them then company will provide 100 pounds to that person. However, Carlill was one of its consumers and had badly affected by the company’s product. When consumer asked for 100 pounds, company argued that there was no contract made between them. At that time, court was found in favor of consumer i.e. Carlill because she has not communicated its acceptance for the offer of company. There are other cases as well, which further explains the options for the consumers regarding their dissatisfaction against suppliers and providers for example the practical case of Donoghue vs. Stevenson 1932 and the case of Grant vs. Australian knitting Mills 1936. There are other main bodies like Commonwealth Courts Portal, Copyright Tribunal of Australia, Administrative Appeals Tribunals, Federal Circuit Court of Australia, high court of Australia, Fair work Commission, and The Federal court of Australia, which works together to make the legal system for the consumers more responsive and effective. There are other schemes that the Australian government establishes to protect the rights of Australian citizens and consumers like Complaint Investigation Schemes and Ombudsman Services. If consumer faces serious dissatisfaction or complaints regarding received goods and services, then there is proper system in Australia that will provide remedy to the consumers.

 

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