Today the Australian Consumer Law Review Final Report was released, and consumer advocates say there are some great wins for Australians.
Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Gerard Brody said that some important changes were on the horizon.
‘The Final Report proposes to make insurance contracts fairer, and make it easier for people to enforce their rights under the Australian Consumer Law,’ said Mr Brody.
‘The Report’s proposal to extend unfair contract terms laws to insurance contracts makes perfect sense. The current gap in the law means that people can get nasty surprises when they make claims.’
‘It’s time to end the special treatment for insurers.’
‘We look forward to working closely with the government and insurers to make sure the law provides real protections – so that the policy fine print is fair and legitimate in every case.’
Consumer Action was also impressed by the proposal to introduce strong ‘lemon laws’ for all recently purchased goods. Under the proposal, if a good fails to meet the consumer guarantees (for example, it is faulty) within a short specified period of time, the buyer will be entitled to a refund or replacement without needing to prove the technical legal test of ‘major failure’.
Mr Brody said that proposals to increase maximum penalties for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law to $10 million for companies will help to deter bad behaviour.
‘Increasing maximum penalties will help to ensure that fines for breaking the law are no longer considered simply a cost of doing business.’
Consumer Action welcomed the proposal to introduce a general safety provision that would require traders to ensure the safety of a product before it enters the market. Consumer Action was also pleased that the introduction of an unfair trading provision would be examined further in the future.
‘An unfair trading provision would provide much-needed additional consumer protections, especially for vulnerable Australians. While the current laws have helped many, there is always room for improvement’, said Mr Brody.
Consumer Action was disappointed the Final Report did not take the opportunity to crack down on unsolicited sales, such as door knocking and cold calling. Mr Brody says that Australians were sick of being peddled products they didn’t want or need.
‘The lack of action on unsolicited sales was a missed opportunity, but we are looking forward to contributing to further discussions on reform in this area in the future.’