In a report issued in early September, the Senate Economics Legislation Committee recommended the passage of the Trade Practices Amendment (Australian Consumer Law) Bill 2009 (Bill) which, if passed, will introduce bans on the use of unfair terms in standard form business-to-consumer contracts. We covered the introduction of the Bill in our June edition of the Competition and Market Regulation Update.3
Only Senator Nick Xenophon recommended amendments to the Bill, although he expressed his broad support for the proposed new law.
The Bill is the first of two bills aimed at introducing a single national consumer law (the Australian Consumer Law) to replace the existing regime under which consumer protection laws vary from state to state.
While the Senate recommended that the Bill be passed without amendment so that the new regime may come into effect at the earliest possible time, it acknowledged various concerns expressed during its public consultation and in doing so made the following additional recommendations:
- the ACCC and ASIC issue a set of guidelines to assist businesses and consumers to understand their rights and obligations under the new regime, and
- extend the protection provided under the Bill to consumers of insurance contracts (the current version of the Bill excludes insurance contracts).
Although the government had hoped that the legislation would commence on 1 January 2010 the Bill has not yet been passed by either the House of Representatives (which referred the Bill to the Senate Committee for review) or the Senate. However, given the views expressed by the Senate Committee in its report that the legislation should be introduced at the earliest possible time, businesses who have not yet done so may wish to commence reviewing their existing contracts in preparation for the introduction of the new regime.