A ton of changes to the Australian Consumer Law are on their way. The vibe is expansion of the laws, penalties, and the ACCC's powers. No need to fret. Here's what you need to know.

What's happening?

The Australian Consumer Law is up for amendment. The change to penalties is already before parliament, and the rest are in an exposure draft currently under Treasury consultation.

My business is B2B, should I care?

Yup. The ACL covers a whole heap more than just B2C stuff. Misleading or deceptive conduct, false representations, unconscionable conduct, small business unfair contract terms rules, manufacturer's liability, and the consumer guarantees on low value contracts are all examples of where the ACL can apply to B2B businesses.

What are the changes?

Here are the big tickets.

Penalties: Maximum penalties for companies will increase to start from $10M, in line with penalties for anti-competitive conduct. Currently they're $1.1M. For individuals they'll go up from $220k to $500k.

Unconscionable conduct: Publicly listed companies will be able to sue other businesses for unconscionable conduct. Currently they're excluded.

Pricing: A headline advertised price will have to include any pre-selected options. (Think travel insurance or carbon offsets when you're buying a plane ticket).

Follow on actions: Private litigants will gain the ability to rely on admissions made in prior proceedings. This is a pretty big deal. If a business makes factual admissions in the course of a prosecution proceeding, consumers will be able to rely on those facts in their own actions against the business.

Product safety: Notification requirements for voluntary recalls already exist. A definition of `recall' will be added, clarifying when the notification obligations apply. Maximum penalties for non-compliance will increase to start from $165k, or $33k for individuals. And the ACCC will have broader investigative powers relating to product safety.

Warranties against defects: The mandatory text that you have to include in a warranty is being amended to address supplies of services as well as goods.

Eek. When?

No fixed date at this stage, but the penalties amendments won't be effective before 1 July 2018.