Competition and Consumer law in Australia: A synopsis
The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) (formerly the Trade Practices Act 1974) is a national law that controls how all Australian firms must behave with their competitors, suppliers, and customers. The law is intended to allow all firms to compete on their own merits in a fair and open market, while also guaranteeing that enterprises treat customers properly. The Australian Consumer Law (ACL), which is a schedule to the CCA, contains consumer protection provisions. The ACL governs how businesses advertise and interact with customers. It also establishes some consumer rights, including explicit guarantee rights. In most cases, the CCA/ACL will apply to organisations that operate in business or commercial capacities like purchasing and selling products or services. It makes no difference what the organization's real structure is.
A business can be run by both for-profit and non-profit organisations. A business is generally defined as one that sells goods or services. Many of the provisions in the ACL, as well as some in the CCA, apply when a person engages in trade or commerce. In trade or commerce, conduct occurs regularly or in the course of doing business. In general, if an organisation engages in recurring transactions in which it exchanges goods or services for payment, it is operating a business and engaging in trade or commerce.
The CCA and ACL impose several duties on enterprises that must be met. These are:
- A company's advertising material and representations must be truthful and accurate. This includes any impressions formed as a result of what is spoken or exhibited. Businesses cannot depend on fine print or disclaimers to explain an overall message that is misleading.
- The law imposes certain obligations on enterprises that use direct marketing methods such as door-to-door or telemarketing: Also, they must not call customers on specified days and hours; salespeople must tell the consumer of the reason for the call as well as the name of the company they represent, and consumers are entitled to a 10-day cooling-off period.
- Businesses shall not demand payment for goods or services that were not requested by the customer.
- Businesses shall not engage in unconscionable behaviour in comparison to normative standards of conscience prescribed by accepted community norms.
- Businesses must not harass or coerce customers in any way.
- When a firm provides goods or services to a consumer, the law imposes a variety of automatic guarantees. These guarantees must be honoured by businesses. Depending on whether a failure to comply with a guarantee is large or minor, different liabilities apply.
- It is generally prohibited for a firm to state that it does not issue refunds if the product or service is defective.
- A company may refuse to issue a refund if the customer has changed their mind.
- Businesses must sell products and services that are safe. Also, certain things shall not be sold by businesses like products that have been prohibited by the government. If a company recalls a product because it is dangerous, it must tell the ACCC. If a company learns that a product has caused an injury, it must tell the ACCC.
- Businesses must not work together. This means they cannot enter into contracts, arrangements, or understandings with competitors (an unrelated business selling the same or similar goods or services) about things like a) the price they will charge; b) the goods or services they will supply; and c) where they will sell or who they will sell to.
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