The Commerce Committee reported on the Consumer Law Reform Bill yesterday, proposing a number of amendments to the Bill, including a prohibition of unfair contract terms in standard form contracts. That proposal, based on similar reforms in Australia, was not included in the original Bill after the Ministry of Consumer Affairs sought feedback on the proposal in 2010. The proposal is now back in the Bill, which Consumer Affairs Minster Simon Bridges says will have its second reading soon.

The omnibus Bill is aimed at modernising New Zealand's consumer law and more closely aligning it with the Australian approach. The Bill would amend and consolidate a number of consumer law statutes, including the Fair Trading Act 1986 (FTA) and the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 (CGA).

Other amendments proposed by the Committee include:

  • further amending the FTA to provide for compulsory interview powers to assist the Commerce Commission when investigating serious breaches of the FTA (similar to the power provided by section 98(c) of the Commerce Act 1986);
  • broadening the range of considerations relevant when determining whether contracting-out behaviour was fair and reasonable under the FTA;
  • further amending the FTA to include a subsection clarifying the circumstances in which unsubstantiated representations may be acceptable, and another subsection which lists the circumstances a Court must have regard to when assessing whether a person had reasonable grounds for a representation;
  • further amending the CGA so that its protections will cover all transactions by traders and consumers (including online auctions and competitive tenders), effectively making consumer law indifferent to the mode of sale; and
  • further amending the CGA to better protect consumers who receive goods via courier (making the sender responsible for the goods, up to the point of delivery).

The Commerce Committee report can be found here.