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Spotlight on the ACL: what will the review change?

Spotlight on the ACL: what will the review change?

By LIV Professional Development

Competition 

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In "legal years", the Australian Consumer Law is relatively new, having only commenced on 1 January 2011. A little more than four years after its commencement, the consumer affairs minister determined that Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand would conduct the first review of the ACL to see what lessons could be learned and what may need to be changed.

Since the conclusion of the review and the issuing of the official report on 19 April 2017, lawyers and legislators have been discussing the key proposals for change, and what those will mean for practitioners and consumers.

Rosannah Healy is a partner at Allens and an expert in competition and consumer law. We recently spoke to her about the changes being proposed in the ACL Review report, what effect they may have on practitioners and her top tips for lawyers practising in this area.

What is the current status of the ACL Review?

Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) released its final report on the review of the Australian Consumer Law in April 2017. The Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers responsible for fair trading and consumer protection released their response to the report in August 2017, accepting many of the recommendations for legislative reform and additional regulatory guidance and directing CAANZ to undertake seven further research and policy projects.

Over the next twelve months, it is expected that the government will introduce a bill to implement an initial tranche of CAANZ's recommendations, with further reforms to be implemented following regulatory impact assessments.

What are your top tips for lawyers practising in this area of law?

  1. Ensure that there are robust processes in place for reviewing claims made on packaging and in marketing.
  2. The Consumer Guarantees cannot be excluded by contract and are an enforcement priority for the ACCC. It is essential that complaints policies, guidelines for sales staff and customer contracts are consistent with the Consumer Guarantees.
  3.  It is critical that staff, especially customer-facing staff, have regular training on their ACL obligations and how to respond to customer questions and complaints.

What can attendees expect to learn by attending your session at the Competition and Consumer Law Conference?

The session will look at how key areas of the ACL have operated to date, how the ACL is proposed to be reformed and what this means for advising clients in this area.

In particular, the session will cover:

  • Consumer guarantees – What conduct has the ACCC been focused on to date? What should businesses do to ensure compliance with the Consumer Guarantees? How will the reforms expand consumer rights in relation to faulty or unsafe products?
  • Unfair trading – How does the ACL currently regulate 'unfair' conduct? How will this change if the reforms are adopted?
  • Product safety – How would a general safety provision operate in Australia?

Rosannah will be presenting more in depth on the topic of ACL reform at the half-day Competition and Consumer Law Conference on Wednesday 15 November. To learn more about what’s happening in this area, including up-to-the-minute developments, make sure you register to attend.


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