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Consumer Law

The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) was enacted on 1 January 2011 and gave Australian consumers extra protections than existed before. The effect of the ACL is to have replaced the State based fair trading laws and ensure that consumer protection was nationally recognised and consistent.  The ACL provides a suite of consumer rights.

In Queensland, the fair trading laws have, effectively, been replaced by the protection under the ACL but the Fair Trading Act remains relevant in some circumstances.

As such, the ACL applies to all businesses that trade in Australia, whether they are high street shops, online stores or otherwise. The ACL attempts to redress the imbalance that existed between the seller and the buyer by giving some fundemental, fair and reasonable rights that a consumer ought to have.

The way it does that is to provide the consumer, purchaser, shopper, client or customer certain rights and guarantees that cannot be taken away from them. Those guarantees apply regardless of what might be agreed between you, regardless of what a salesperson might say and regardless of what an invoice, receipt or their terms and conditions say!

The Australian Government produces an enormous amount of information and resources for consumers through the consumer law website (www.consumerlaw.gov.au). Below is a basic run down of some of the ways the Australian Consumer Law protects you against both the supplier and manufacturer (in most cases) of almost all goods and services you buy in Australia.

Consumer Guarantees Applying to Goods

There are 2 threshold issues to address for the guarantees to apply, you must be a consumer and you must have purchased the goods in trade or commerce.

You are a consumer if you buy any goods for personal, domestic or household purposes, regardless of the price paid. You are also a consumer if you by any goods, for any purpose (including trade or commercial) upto the price of $40,000. Please note: there is no price limitation for vehicles or trailers used to transport goods on public roads.

Buying those goods in trade or commerce simply refers to the supplier being in the business of selling goods. In other words, you didn’t purchase the goods privately.

Consumer Guarantees Applying to Services

There are 2 threshold issues to address for the guarantees to apply, you must be a consumer and you must have purchased the goods in trade or commerce.

You are a consumer if you pay for a service that is normally for personal, domestic or household purposes, regardless of the price paid. You are also a consumer if you pay for a service, for any purpose (including trade or commercial) upto the price of $40,000. Please note: insurance contracts are not covered by the ACL.

Paying for a service in trade or commerce simply refers to the supplier being in the business of providing those services.

Due Care and Skill

All suppliers of services (including lawyers) guarantee they will use an acceptable level of skill or technical knowledge and take all neccesary care to avoid loss or damage to you when providing their service.

For example, you engage a builder to build your home and when finished, it is discovered that the roof leaks and the water causes damage to the inside of the home. The builders failure to perform their service with acceptable skill allows you to peruse a remedy against the builder.

As with most issues under the ACL, the main contentious issue is evaluating what exactly is the ‘acceptable’ level for the particular service provided and there are a number of factors that help determine that.

Fit For Any Specified Purpose

A service provider guarantees that the service they provide will be fit for any particular purpose you may specify to them. Further, any product of the service will be fit for that specified purpose.

For example, you engage a tailor to fit and supply your wedding suit and he measures you up. When the suit arrives it doesn’t fit you. The tailor has failed to supply the service (and the product) for the specified purpose of fitting you and you would be entitled to a remedy.

Complete within Reasonable Time

If your supply agreement does not specify a time when the service is to performed or finished by, then the supplier guarantees that it will be performed within a reasonable time.

What is ‘reasonable’ is debatable but might be implied somehow. For example, if you enagage an accountant to complete and lodge your BAS, it would be implied that it would be completed by the due date set by the ATO.