The Australian Consumer Law
Since 1 January 2011, Australia has one national law for fair trading and consumer protection—the Australian Consumer Law. This means that Australian consumers and businesses have the same rights and obligations wherever they are in Australia.
The Australian Consumer Law fulfils key reforms in the Council of Australian Government’s National Partnership Agreement to Deliver a Seamless National Economy, and will help to reduce regulatory complexity and duplication for businesses and consumers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Australian Consumer Law?
The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) commenced on 1 January 2011 as the national consumer law which applies in all states and territories, and replaced consumer protection provisions in at least 20 different Commonwealth, state and territory laws.
The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) is a single, national consumer law. The ACL will replace provisions in 20 national, State and Territory consumer laws.
What does the Australian Consumer Law cover?
The ACL includes:
- a national unfair contract terms law covering standard form consumer contracts;
- a national law guaranteeing consumer rights when buying goods and services;
- a national product safety law and enforcement system;
- a national law for unsolicited consumer agreements covering door-to-door sales and telephone sales;
- simple national rules for lay-by agreements; and
- new penalties, enforcement powers and consumer redress.
Who does the Australian Consumer Law apply to?
The ACL applies nationally and in all States and Territories, and to all Australian businesses.
Who enforces the Australian Consumer Law?
The ACL is enforced and administered by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), each State and Territory’s consumer agency, and, in respect of financial services, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
What are the benefits for consumers?
The ACL replaced 20 different State, Territory and Commonwealth laws with one law.
- Previously the law that applied to a consumer transaction differed across each State and Territory of Australia.
- The ACL now makes it easier for consumers to understand and enforce their rights because they will be the same across Australia.
Easy to understand
The ACL provides consumers with a law that is easy to understand.
- The ACL is simpler and clearer than the equivalent provisions of the former Trade Practices Act and the earlier State and Territory Fair Trading Acts.
- Complex legal terms have been replaced with terms that consumers can understand.
Consumers will benefit from better enforcement of the ACL.
- A single law is being uniformly enforced across Australia. A memorandum of understanding between regulators ensures this is the case.
- Similar enforcement powers are available to all regulators.
- Courts and tribunals across Australia will apply the same law to consumer disputes, allowing for clearer avenues of redress and greater consistency in outcomes irrespective of where the dispute occurs or where the court or tribunal is located.
What are the benefits for businesses?
Businesses will benefit from one law applying to consumer transactions across Australia.
- Businesses that trade in more than one State or Territory only have to comply with one law.
- Regulatory complexity is often a deterrent for businesses when they consider expanding. The ACL removes a barrier to interstate expansion of businesses.
Easy to understand
The ACL provides businesses with a law that is easy to understand.
- Updated terminology, when compared to the archaic provisions in previous laws, is more easily understood by businesses.
- A law that is easy to understand will result in fewer disputes, as businesses and consumers can have a common understanding of the ACL.
Businesses will benefit from better enforcement of the ACL.
- Even when State and Territory laws are similar, differences in enforcement approaches can lead to additional compliance costs for businesses.
- Improved co-operation between regulators in applying the ACL gives businesses comfort that the law is being applied consistently across Australia.
Business benefit from clear obligations under the ACL.
- Previous laws imposed different obligations on businesses depending on where in Australia a business or a particular part of a business is located or where a transaction took place.
- The ACL imposes the same obligations on businesses across Australia, making compliance easier for businesses who trade in more than one jurisdiction.