In March 2016, Consumer Affairs Ministers throughout Australia and New Zealand began a twelve-month review of the Australian Consumer Law – in a bid to better protect Australian consumers.
The review sought to future-proof the law against new and emerging issues and in doing so identified a set of reforms to improve the operation of Australian markets.
Now more than one year on from its completion, we look forward to the Consumer Law Conference, which takes a fresh look at the ACL’s ongoing implementation and its key challenges from both a business and consumer perspective.
In advance of his address at the conference, CEO of the Consumer Action Law Centre in Victoria, Gerard Brody, spoke to us about some of his ongoing concerns following the ACL review.
Mr. Brody, how well has the ACL served to protect Australian consumers since the completion of the review?
There is still a long way to go before all the recommendations from the ACL Review are implemented. In fact, only one recommendation has made its way into Federal Parliament—that’s the one relating to increased penalties. Treasury is currently consulting on a number of key issues, including enhancements to the consumer guarantee regime. These enhancements are looking at goods and cars that break down shortly after purchase and whether consumers should have a stronger right to request a refund. Consumer groups as well as some Ministers have supported the idea of lemon laws, so this possible enhancement is a significant opportunity.
What new or emerging issues do you feel have been neglected during the review?
One issue that the ACL Review didn’t sufficiently tackle was the effectiveness of dispute resolution in civil tribunals. Consumers often face significant barriers in accessing justice, particularly the burden of proving their case which can require expert reports and so on. We need to work on removing these barriers, as a matter of priority.
Federal Government have announced that they will legislate an economy-wide right to access consumer data. What is your take on this?
This would certainly encourage competition and for that reason we are supportive in general. But I would be lying if I said there weren’t a few alarm bells ringing. There are lots of issues to do with control and consent that need to be addressed, for example. In Europe new laws are more sophisticated in this realm and we consider there should be equivalent regulation in Australia. It’s also time to reconsider how consent is obtained as the current approach of hiding consent in T&Cs is a farce.
Gerard Brody will present alongside the NSW Minister for Innovation & Better Regulation, ASIC Group Manager, Felicity Natoli and ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard.
Learn more and book your place.